Midpeninsula Post

Present: A gift store dedicated to building a community

Present's storefront. (Mia Bassett)

At Present, every product has a story. The gift and artisanal food shop on Downtown Los Altos’s main street is more than just its products, with a unique focus on the atmosphere of the store and the customer experience.

Present concentrates on maintaining an amicable customer-salesperson dynamic, something which founders Jim Daley and Jim Reynolds felt was missing from many retail stores.

“[Daley and Reynolds] just care about the people a lot,” said Michelle Wright, daughter of the two store owners.

Michelle Wright (left) and Jim Reynolds (right). (Mia Bassett)

This care, Wright said, stems partially from the fact that Present only lets in products which are personally tried and that the owners are familiar with. Being a relatively small store, the owners of Present are able to examine every product that they put on their shelves, making sure they know everything about what they sell and are able to share that knowledge with customers.

Products at Present. (Mia Bassett)

“We only let things in that we really enjoy and that have a good story,” Wright said.

Wright says those stories create an opportunity for conversation, setting Present apart from other gift stores.

Many of Present’s products are also locally made, and many of them have stories behind them. For example, Present sells products from one of Wright, Daley and Reynolds’s favorite coffee shops: Cat and Cloud. Wright said the salespeople at Cat and Cloud maintain a conversational, fun atmosphere in their store, which she hopes customers will remember when they see the products in Present.

Products from Cat and Cloud, one of Wright, Daley and Reynolds’s favorite coffee shops. (Mia Bassett)

“When people come in to Present and they see Cat and Cloud Coffee, they immediately remember how they felt at that coffee place with people who cared about them,” Wright said.

Just like Cat and Cloud, which Wright said always prioritizes caring for its customers, Present’s owners make an effort to build a community around their store. Even as it evolved, the customer experience was always a priority for Present. 

“We’re really all about giving the customer great service,” Reynolds said. “That’s something we felt was missing in retail — taking a little special time with people.”

Both Daley and Reynolds are from the service industry, so customer service has always been a priority for them. They originally owned a hair salon in Houston, but 10 years ago, they moved to be closer to their daughter and created Present in November 2012. 

The idea for Present stemmed from the many gift baskets that Daley and Reynolds received. Many of the gifts were unsatisfactory and the packages the gifts came in weren’t reusable.

“The idea was to try to find a way to … present the packaging … so that even what it is presented in was useful,” Wright said.

Daley and Reynolds wanted to create a way for people to give gifts with eco-friendly packaging that used less paper and could easily be reused while also maintaining a beautiful look.

For example, Present, which packages its products in the store itself, wraps some of their gifts with a band instead of fully covering it, preserving the presentational aspect without using as much paper. All of Present’s packaging is recyclable as well, but Reynolds says this doesn’t compromise the visual appeal of the gift.

Present’s wrapping materials, which are kept in the store to use for customers’ purchases. (Mia Bassett)

“[Customers] might buy a $10 candy bar, but we can … make it look like an expensive candy bar,” Reynolds said.

Present continued to grow but its core ideals stayed the same. Present still gift-wraps their items in the store and focuses on customer care, but the scale of the operation has changed through the years — the store went from selling small gift bags to gift baskets for real estate companies.

“As we saw a need for people we would fill the need,” Reynolds said.

Present is located on 127 Main Street and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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