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Mother-Daughter Business Offers Gifts with a Personal Touch

Originally a summer boutique in a different state, Exclamations has blossomed into a longstanding Evergreen Park business, specializing in home goods and unique gifts.

What began as a seasonal store in Michigan has turned into a familiar and long-lasting Evergreen Park staple.

, 3523 W. 95th St., began 26 years ago by Susan Burke and her mother Mary Lou Shanahan. The mother-daughter duo originally owned a seasonally-open store in Sister Lakes, Mich., before deciding to take their talent to a full-time level.

“We would have (the store) during the summer. I graduated from college and we decided to do a fulltime store where we lived,” Burke, whose family ran the Michigan store for nine years, said. “So we opened in May 1985.”

Since Burke lives in the Beverly neighborhood and Shanahan is an Evergreen Park resident. They decided the business strip would make the perfect location for the store. The business sells a lot of jewelry, greeting cards, home decor such as wreaths, tabletops, accessories, purses and lots of items with sayings and quotes printed on them, Burke said.

“We’ve always done a heavy seasonal gift selection at Christmas and Easter, those holidays,” she said. “We have some children and baby items. We have a nice selection of things.”

Not only does Burke take pride in the 3,000 square-foot store’s wide selection of items, but also in the complimentary gift wrapping they offer customers.

“It’s a great feature and nice for the neighborhood,” Burke said. “You can pick something nice and it’s all ready to give. That’s always been a plus for people, I think.”

One of the perks of being in the same location for 24 years—the other two years were spent in a space across the street—is watching clients journey through life, Burke said.

“The neat thing about being in the neighborhood is growing with the customers,” she said, adding that children of longtime clients now have kids of their own. “It’s an interesting journey.”

While the store’s main clientele is women, Burke said she does see men coming in to purchase a sure-to-please gift for the women in their lives.

“It’s always nice to be able to come in here and select something special, as far as a gift goes. I think it feels like you made an effort to select something from here,” Burke said. Frequently purchased items include jewelry, purses and scarves. “Guys, when they’ve got that holiday or obligation for Mother’s Day or Christmas, they come in and know they’re going to pick something that, more often or not, their mothers or wives will like. It’s wrapped and ready to give.”

While Exclamations has been a great job for Burke, especially while raising a family, she said the poor economy of the past few years has negatively affected the business.

“The economy definitely has an effect on all businesses,” Burke said. “We’ve seen it too. People aren’t as kind to themselves (in terms of buying for themselves). They are still giving gifts.”

To improve sales and to draw more customers in, Exclamations runs promotions, Burke said, including one where patrons will earn credit towards future purchase based on how much they initially spend.

“In general, traffic is down, so you need to get more people in,” she said.

Burke said she hopes the store is able to continue on as an Evergreen Park staple for years to come. While her daughter would love it if Burke handed her the reigns, right now “she’s a little young to be running a business,” she said. “It’s nice working as a family. We’ll see how things go.”

Burke and her mother have enjoyed running Exclamations because it has given them a chance to interact with Evergreen Park residents, she said. Involved with the they also try to give back to the community through donations to churches, schools and the library. However, Burke added, it is important for the community to realize that businesses need support to thrive in the community.

“A business can’t survive if it’s not being utilized,” Burke said.

To learn more about Exclamations, give them a call at (708) 499-3988.

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