Wrapsody, a gift shop soon to be in 5 cities, earns Gold Retailer of the Year status

AUBURN, HOOVER and TRUSSVILLE – While Christie Howell was a student at Auburn University studying early childhood education, she worked part time for the downtown Auburn gift store, Wrapsody. At the time, Wrapsody was a two-store chain that began in Hoover in 2004. When the original owners, Terry Shea and Sarah Brown, decided to sell in 2017, they knew Christie and her husband, Reel, were the ideal buyers.

She understood the Wrapsody culture,” said Shea. “Christie … thoughtfully rebranded the stores with a nod to the past but beholding the future.”

Christie Howell of Wrapsody, a gift boutique launched two decades ago that will soon have locations in five Alabama cities, is the state’s Gold Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales $5 Million to $20 Million category. In 2011, under its previous ownership, Wrapsody was the Silver Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales $1 Million to $5 Million category.

I am so grateful for the framework laid by the original founders, the wonderful Wrapsody team that goes above and beyond every day, our trusted vendors and partners who tirelessly support us in our expansion efforts, and for the local communities we serve,” Howell said.

By 2018, Christie and Reel Howell had moved Wrapsody’s Hoover location from Patton Creek to Stadium Trace Village, creating a larger customer base and giving that store a 15% to 20% annual sales boost. Then in May of 2020, the Howells opened a third store in Trussville. In October, the fourth Wrapsody will open in Homewood. With an SBA 504 loan, the Howells bought several parcels of property on 18th Street, a walkable shopping area in the heart of Homewood. Besides a store, they will also have warehouse space on the Linden Alley side of the property to centralize receiving for all the Wrapsody stores.

The opportunity for a small business, such as us, to own their real estate is so rare, and we are thankful to have full control of our location for years to come,” the Howells said. They also bought nearby property on Linden Avenue for their corporate headquarters. They have a lease agreement for a fifth store in Madison’s Cliff Farm development, which is currently under construction.

Since 2009, “Wrapsody has provided a great business front for Auburn’s downtown merchants and local customers,” said Anna Hovey, president and CEO of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, which nominated Howell as a Retailer of the Year. “Wrapsody has multiple other locations throughout Alabama branching their retail and influence across the state,” Hovey added.

For the Retailer of the Year judges, besides outstanding sales, it was Wrapsody’s thoughtful expansion, marketing and community involvement that hit all the marks. Wrapsody’s local support emphasis is childhood education and sports.

While Wrapsody “continues to be bullish about brick and mortar,” the Howells said, “it is critical” to have “an online presence and offer online shopping and services.” To that end, the Howells promoted an existing team member in 2022 to full-time web manager, which they equate to a manager of a physical location.

The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities. This year’s 11 winners were selected from 57 entries submitted from a pool of 86 nominees.

“Christie Howell is a retailer of the year EVERY year to her customers, her 65 employees and the Auburn, Hoover, Trussville and surrounding communities,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. Wrapsody has been a member of the Alabama Retail Association since 2005.

Other 2023 Retailers of the Year
Previous Retailers of the Year

The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,300 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.

Christie Howell, Wrapsody | 205.428.9765
Nancy King Dennis, Alabama Retail Association | 334.868.2195 | 800.239.5423

Originally posted at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 8, 2023

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