In time with its 25th anniversary, Image Awards, Engraving & Creative Keepsakes Inc. moves to a new location in Geneva, Illinois, after calling a 100-year-old building home for the last 12 years. Customers looking for gifts, corporate awards, youth sports trophies, and office signage no longer have to climb a set of stairs to access the shop, as the new location is on a single level. The new location is just over a mile away from the previous shop on the same street.
“While it served me well for 12 years, the stairs grew steep and the drafts felt colder,” owner Patty Donahue explains about the previous location. Donahue’s search, which went on for a couple of years, was originally for a place to rent. When she happened upon the current space, the owners did not want to rent it out, but they would consider selling it. A couple of months later, the For Sale sign went up, and Donahue was on it.
The shop originally operated out of Batavia, Illinois when it first opened in 1994 for 12 years, and then another 12 years in the previous location before moving to where it is now. Let’s take it back to where and when it all began.
In 1994, Donahue opened the shop in a corner of an office space off of her sister’s garage. Before buying her first engraving machine, which was a New Hermes Vanguard 1000, Donahue worked as a salesperson for her sister’s business, Rayco Marking Products. Donahue recognized the opportunity when her sister knew someone trying to sell their engraver. She raised her hand without hesitation.
At the beginning, she continued to sell for her sister, while renting the space for her newfound business. “I laugh when I say space. It was about 50 square feet, if that,” Donahue remembers. It was enough room for a desk, her machine, and a glass display case for products. “I had no training and had to wreck a bunch of stuff to figure it out, but figure it out I did,” Donahue explains.
Nowadays, Donahue and her coworker, Lori Lou, who has been a faithful employee for the past 11 years, use Vision Engraving & Routing Systems machines for engraving. The shop houses a Phoenix 1212, a MaxPro, and an 810. Dye-sublimation is another element of the business, with the pair having recently switched from the Epson bulk system to Sawgrass Virtuoso systems.
“We’re one of the last ‘no minimum order’ shops in the area with a showroom, actual hours, and great customer service,” Donahue claims. According to her, there are still people who want to talk to someone in person and see the items they are going to purchase.
“Even though we can’t have every possible product on the shelf, our showroom is a great way to showcase our craftsmanship, and our customers get to meet us — the actual people who are creating their awards,” says Donahue.
Aside from being her own boss, she enjoys listening to customer’s stories, as everybody has one for the products they order. “I love that I’m given a lot of freedom from my customers to provide them with excellent products using my knowledge, experience, and yes, creative expression,” Donahue adds.
The variety of what she does keeps her motivated. “Having so many different types of products and production processes makes certain we’re never bored of doing the same thing over and over again.” Donahue also sells her original artwork in the shop. This includes products made with prints of her art, such as one-of-a-kind coffee mugs, outlet covers, and greeting cards.
At the new location, customers can expect better parking and easier accessibility. To help get the word out, Donahue held a ribbon cutting for each of the five Chambers of Commerce she belongs to. She also plans to throw a party for the shop’s 25th anniversary, which is on May 17. The date is yet to be announced. “It’s going to be big, it’s going to be fun, and I will likely need the next day off,” Donahue imagines.
The new space already feels like home to Donahue, Lou, and the shop’s cat and greeter, Frankie D. “I’m not going anywhere anytime soon!” Donahue concludes.