Janet Flannery was a long time customer of Pic Pocket, located on Arctic Avenue, before she and her husband, Jim, bought the store. (Staff photo by Bill Sanservino.)

Customers find unique pieces at small Ewing boutique

By Scott Morgan

There’s a lot to be said about consistency and the personal touch. And that may be an old-fashioned idea, but it’s why Pic Pocket, a small boutique shop on Arctic Parkway, is still around.

About eight years ago, Janet Flannery, a longtime Pic Pocket customer, saw that the store was closing after 47 years.

“I hated to see something that had been around for so long go out of business,” she said. So she asked the owner to sell it to her.

He refused. Flannery, and her husband, Jim, were stunned by the owner’s reason: “This place is too much work,” he said.

Flannery, who’d spent 35 years in the banking industry, figured she could handle it, and Jim eventually convinced the owner to sell them the store.

“I had no idea it was so much work,” Flannery laughs. But eight years in, she and her husband have the rhythm down well. They make frequent trips to New York to buy merchandise and regular rounds at trade shows.

The Flannerys eschew the big-box approach. “We don’t buy, say, 10 of one item, maybe we’ll only buy one or two,” she said. For one thing, Pic Pocket is a small shop that doesn’t have room for 10 copies of everything. For another thing, Pic Pocket’s customers like to find things they don’t see in other places.

“People don’t like to go out and see somebody else wearing what they’re wearing,” she said.

As a customer, Flannery enjoyed the breezy, personalized atmosphere the store provided. She refers to it as “her therapy of sorts,” a place where she could pick up a little something for a little money and feel a little better.

When she and her husband bought the shop, they wanted to keep that casual, friendly air. Sure, they changed a few things — the windows used to be blocked and the store didn’t sell big, bold jewelry or clothes like it does now — but they mostly wanted Pic Pocket to remain a place where people felt comfortable, without pressure, and as if they were real people, not just another consumer.

“If you’re here for 10 minutes or if you’re here for an hour, we take our time with you,” Flannery said. “We’ll pull anything out, show you whatever you want to see.”

The store also conducts a lot of events, including Easter Bunny days, a yearly summer tent sale and occasional women’s networking group. Anything to make people better know what the store has to offer.

This, actually, was one of her biggest surprises.

“It’s the name,” Flannery said. “People don’t know if we’re a pool hall or a second-hand shop or whatever.”

The previous owner had no out-front signage, but the Flannerys rectified that with a giant handbag sign and pink flamingoes.

Now the shop’s not so much a mystery to passers-by, and Flannery classifies the place as “a boutique that caters to everything from your everyday jewelry to your evening wear.”

The shop, along with its selection of pins, scarves, rings, tops and jackets, has “the largest selection of clip-on earrings in the area,” she said.

Flannery said that two or three times a week, someone new pops in who’d been past a bunch of times but never stopped. Once they come in, she said, the casual “let us know if you need anything” vibe brings repeat customers from all over. And she means that literally.

“People from England, from California, from Florida, or wherever who used to live in the area always come back and see us if they’re here,” she said. “We’re a destination.”

The Flannerys have two part-time employees, including a niece, but no plans to retire from the shop anytime soon.

“If we do, we’ll probably give it over to her,” she said. “We’d hate to just see it close.”

Pic Pocket is located at 54 Arctic Parkway. Phone: (609) 393-9337. On the Web: picpocket54.com.