Find the Perfect Gift at Present Perfect

By Debbie Breneman

Hampton Union, Friday, April 18, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Edie Argo, Owner of 'Present Perfect'

Before creating Present Perfect, Edie Argo found it frustrating that she had to go to a variety of shops to get exactly what she needed, wasting a lot of time and energy.

So when Edie opened her Hampton boutique, she wanted to make it a onestop shop, offering customers a place to find most anything, including unique and unexpected finds, without the sticker shock.

Now she travels far and wide in search of designer jewelry, fine fashions, skin-care products, home décor, pottery, paintings, garden accents, home-cleaning products and a selection of fun surprises.

One of her specialties is coordinating beautiful gift baskets – and not just your typical fruit and wine or bath and body baskets, but eye-catching arrangements of handpicked pieces from the shop.

Here's my interview with owner Edie Argo:

Runway Ready: What was your vision for the store when you opened in 2003?

Edie Argo: When I first opened Present Perfect it was a gift shop/gift baskets. I also believed in a liberal view of "gifts" – a gift can be something you give yourself, a friend, family or a business associate.

Hence, my retail items encompassed both home and garden articles, along with "personal items."

My vision was to approach "gift baskets" as creative packaging, with everything in the shop either a "container" or "content."

Early examples of containers were storage chests/ trunks, wine racks/caddies, serving trays and bowls, cosmetic bags and handbags, jewelry boxes, etc. I promised myself right from the start that once I saw a home or garden item in more than one other shop within a 10-mile radius of Present Perfect, I'd run down the inventory and replace it with something else.

I don't believe in loyalty to wholesale reps -- as long as they keep their quality top-notch, prices reasonable and selection fresh, I'll consider not replacing them.

However, one of my other promises is to change with the seasons. My "mix" hasn't changed – nor is it likely to – but my selections change seasonally, and in response to customer feedback, as often as needed.

Getting back to gift baskets: Some examples of "contents" include jewelry, blankets, plush toys, books, pens, letter openers, stemware, hats, gloves, sweaters and jackets.

Regarding the rest of my vision, I wanted a shop that felt like "home" – a special place for folks to feel comfortable, to want to stay and browse; a place that appealed to all of their senses – sight, sound, smell and touch.

Since my original space at Rosewood at Rye was lofted with high, vaulted ceilings, I incorporated artwork, architectural shelving and lamps.

Being a former corporate person with an MBA in finance, I believed that anything taking up space (including air) needed to earn its "real estate value" (so, no store fixtures).

Therefore, I furnished my shop with salable accent furniture and lamps and also sell the music CDs that I play.

RR: How did you choose the location?

Edie: Lots of drive-by traffic, windows on Route 1, good square footage and not as ridiculously priced as Exeter and Portsmouth.

RR: Your Web site says you enjoy traveling to find those "perfect" gifts. Where are some of your favorite locales?

Edie: Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

RR: What are some of your favorite items that people would be unlikely to find anywhere else?

Edie: There is no such thing as something that is so unique it can't be found elsewhere. There are general categories of things like lamps, jewelry, clothing, home fragrance, books, etc. – the key is to select carefully from each category and wholesale line so as not to have my customers see themselves coming and going throughout the Seacoast.

RR: Environmentally minded customers will be interested to know that you emphasize an awareness of "green" issues. How does this play out in your boutique?

Edie: Way back in 1979, when I had to do an undergrad thesis as a requirement for graduation, I chose "corporate social responsibility."

Many of the furniture items in my shop are what I call "Edie's Fresh Vintage" – reclaimed wooden or metal pieces that I have cleaned and refinished.

I've also always tried my best to be environmentally and socially conscious. We are all so blessed here in America, our democratic way of life affords us many luxuries not available in developing countries. With that, though, we have a greater responsibility to care for our surroundings. So when I come across a fair-trade company or green company with an interesting product, good quality, fair suggested retail price – AND the company gives back to the community and workers and their families – that's a product that I'll bring into my shop.

RR: You also promote fund-raising for breast cancer research, inviting online customers to become "passionately pink for the cure." Is social consciousness part of your vision for Present Perfect?

Edie: Absolutely! For me, it goes hand in hand with my tagline -- "helping to make your Present a Perfect one."

Most folks think of present as "gift," but I chose the name because I love literature and the arts. Present Perfect is a tense, albeit a very difficult one to define in the English language. It is the here and now, that split second in time just before the "moment" is past.

I like to do my best to make every moment count. So, since I have been blessed in life, I like to pass on what I can.

RR: Present Perfect for that perfect present... How did the name come to you, and did you know instantly that it was the perfect name?

Edie: I've always liked subtle humor, enjoyed a play on words. My daughter helped. I had three choices in mind when we went to Concord to register a name for my business. All three were available, but we both liked this one best. In case you're wondering, the others were Bundles and Posh Pamperings.

'Present Perfect'
457 Lafayette Road
Hampton, NH 03842
or call (603) 926-3340
Online at