By Susan Morse

Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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

Edith Argo, owner of Present Perfect, formerly in Rye, is now in her new location at 457 Lafayette Road in Hampton.
[Photo by Rich Beauchesne]

HAMPTON -- Edie Argo has given downtown Hampton the perfect present.

The retailer has taken over space long held by Colt News and opened a store she believes offers a reason to park and shop downtown.

Even as other stores along the Route 1 center close or move on, Argo said she believes in the potential of downtown as a destination spot. She sees a good synergy between her store and the specialty restaurants that have sprung up in the area.

"Give people a reason to shop here," she said, "and they will come."

The shop's name, Present Perfect, reflects both the here and now items in the store and their gift appeal.

Since it opened in mid-October, Argo has already seen sales soar compared to last year, when the shop was located along Route 1 in Rye.

"I think the visibility here is great," she said.

She's even bringing back shopping downtown on a Thursday night, staying open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays during the holiday season.

Present Perfect carries jewelry, clothing and home decoration items. The items are arranged as they would be in a room of a house, and change seasonally. One might find a coloring book next to a lamp, near artwork on a wall. The store is a visual cornucopia of what Argo calls "lifestyle retail."

There's a vanilla diffuser for $36.95; a golden jeweled turtle box for $35; Limoges boxes from $160 to $180; soap products, vases, serving dishes, cards and jewelry by regional designer Diane Kurkup.

"You'll always see mix of jewelry, artwork, furniture, lighting fixtures, garden statuary," she said. "It's something I wanted to do since I was a child. It's a vision I had."

Argo, a single parent, moved to the Seacoast from Connecticut in 1994. She has a master's degree in finance and worked in a corporate environment, and then as a personal trainer, before following her dream.

She opened her first store at Rosewood of Rye and outgrew it. Argo began looking for retail space in Portsmouth, Exeter and Hampton. Portsmouth was too expensive, with rates of $30 to $40 per square foot, Exeter storefronts she visited had stairs, and Hampton was just right.

Argo leases the space from the Casassa family, who has been helpful, she said, in remaking the old Colt's into a store she calls "lifestyle retail."

The store has no traditional display fixtures. Argo's father helped her build more home-like wall dividers. Remnants of old Colt's can be still be seen, in the large glass display case along one wall, and the familiar, long wooden checkout counter in the back of the store.