Gift Adventures owner to retire, close store

Gift Adventures doesn’t feel empty yet, but its shelves are less full.

Store owner Steve Artz tried to fill the space with something more than products — experiences, vibrancy, creativeness — for more than 40 years.

He said it is time to close the downtown State College store. Gift Adventures’ last day of business will be Thursday, though he plans to sell leftover inventory online.

“I had great opportunities to partner with people in town and met some very talented and hard working people, which provided great success for all of this,” Artz said. “Things have changed considerably over the last couple years, and I’m getting older and in a great relationship. We want to travel. The person I’m married to does not want me working seven days a week anymore.”

Artz’s retirement plans include traveling to several continents, getting his hands dirty through gardening and painting and writing a book, which he said will be dedicated to his husband and in memory of John C. Mason, his partner for 28 years.

He provided a peek into the book’s content, which he said will be motivational and will incorporate his experiences.

“I’ve seen three generations in here, and they’re very important to me,” Artz said. “Without their support I couldn’t have done the things I did. The book will reflect a lot of that. And when I tell you the title of the book, which I won’t yet, I get nothing but thumbs up from people saying I nailed it.”

Artz hopes the book will provide inspiration and encouragement, “for people to understand who they are and what they can do.”

“So many people often say ‘I can’t do this,’ but I want to hear people say ‘I can and I will.’ ” he said.

Artz attributed decades of success to partnerships in the community and treating people well.

It’s important that we have a neighborhood, a friendly neighborhood like this and that we understand the importance of giving back to each other.

Steve Artz

He believes everyone should wait on tables and work in retail at least once their life and that he should recognize everyone who walks into the store. He also had a unique return policy.

If someone were unsure about buying something, he’d tell them to take it home for a week and decide, no purchase necessary with the trust they would come back to return it or pay.

“I learned from my grandfather and his business in the 1950s, and that’s what we are,” Artz said. “We are old school. I know who I am and how I want to be treated, so I treat people the same way. Some people don’t know how to respond to that. It’s really easy to be that way. I think it’s harder to be the opposite way.”

Some of his employees, he said, became business owners by starting their own or buying another.

“I have encouraged people to be who they are and believe in themselves and to keep moving forward and to give back to the community,” he said. “I’ve tried to do that in so many ways whether it be giving them a place to sell their things outside or helping with the food bank, fundraisers for the Women’s Resoure Center or PAWS, Arts Festival, First Night. It’s important that we have a neighborhood, a friendly neighborhood like this and that we understand the importance of giving back to each other.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli