Please join the Museum Store Association in congratulating the winners of the MSA STORE OF THE MONTH. Winners of the July 2019, August 2019, September 2019, October 2019, November 2019, and December 2019 STORE OF THE MONTH will be entered for STORE OF THE YEAR — join us in Cleveland for MSA FORWARD 2020 to find out the winner!

To nominate your store, please click the link below to access the nomination form.

September 2019 Winner

Cantigny Park

The Cantigny Shop is unique in that it caters to the many interests and the life of Robert R. McCormick, benefactor of the institution and longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune who also served in WWI. The institution also has 30 acres of garden, the First Division Museum, and the Robert R. McCormick House. The main store is located in the Visitors Center and it is the first thing visitors see when they come in. Staff tries to engage them as they walk in, and give them an idea of what is to come when they walk through. The store at the First Division Museum, known as the First Division Museum Outpost was outfitted from a 1953 M100 ¼-ton military trailer that was not being used. It offers military items for kids and adults and provides a well-rounded experience at the museum.

The store has grown so much with various themes and vignettes through the years. Visitors can find many unique military memorabilia, gardening gifts, children’s items, home décor, jewelry, and so much more. Buying for that many different areas can be challenging at times, but somehow it all works because it represents Cantigny Park and all of the diverse offering our institution has to offer.

August 2019 Winner

The Hall of Democracy Museum Store at The National WWII Museum

The Hall of Democracy Museum Store, which just opened on August 1st, is one of five retail locations located on the campus of The National WWII Museum.  This store is unique in many ways. As one of five stores, the merchandise mix has to be unique. Staff evaluated every item currently sold in every store to determine which items would be permanently move to this new location. This forced the remerchandising of all of the other stores as well. Based on the items already stocked, they were then able to seek out items and programs to fill the gaps. This included some higher end product, as well as offering product from a local gourmet bakery. This space allowed for the expansion of the presentation from existing vendors — such as MSA member Lapis Lazuli — and add a line found at MSA FORWARD, Halcyon Days. Many other MSA vendors are represented and in some cases featured in this store.  The store was built from the ground up.

The retail team began working with the construction department years ago, and the first official act was to have them eliminate all architect-designed retail cabinetry in favor of fixtures that are designed to actually be retail-friendly.  The process of creating this special retail experience allowed museum store staff to work closely with other departments within the museum to allow implementation of their vision. This help cement the bond between the store and the museum. The store’s plan of using historical images within the space to further the guest experience, endeared the retail team to historians, curators, and senior staff. The goal and the outcome was to become more than just a “Gift Shop.”   The finished product and the accolades from staff and volunteers was validation that the Museum Store is very much a part of The National WWII Museum. The retail team is proud to be an integral part of the guest experience.

July 2019 Winner

The Shop at the Florence Griswold Museum

The shop at the Florence Griswold Museum draws inspiration from their institution’s mission statement of “fostering an understanding of American art, with emphasis on the art, history, and landscape of Connecticut.”  The carefully curated selection of merchandise goes above and beyond the “typical” museum store, but also includes a focus on local history and sourcing locally-made products or books written by local authors.  In an age where online retailers are undercutting small brick and mortar stores, store buyers have learned to look local and find authors and artisans whose works aren’t readily available online. Currently, the store’s best-selling children’s books are written by a local author.

Not limiting themselves to only color wheel inspired products or items with paintings reproduced on them, the shop at the Florence Griswold Museum has a wonderful array of exhibition-related catalogues and products for the visitor looking for a keepsake of their visit.  In order for the shop to be successful year-round and not be strictly dependent on exhibition attendance, they offer unique general gift items. The type of artisan wares that museum members and the general community would see fit to come in and purchase year-round.   This month, the Florence Griswold Museum will be opening the Robert F. Schumann Artists’ Trail, that will encourage visitors to explore the outdoor spaces of the 12-acre site and will be paired with a spring/summer exhibition entitled “Fragile Earth”, which advocates for environmental causes.  In planning and buying for this exhibition, the shop made a concerted effort to emphasize this idea of fostering an understanding of the Connecticut landscape.   The shop has been transformed into a botanical wonderland with heirloom seeds helping to preserve natural pollinators, books to encourage gardening with native plants, children’s titles written by several of the exhibition artists, and a plethora of insect inspired wares as the artist in residence uses insects to create her works.

The shop at the Florence Griswold Museum are innovative risk takers who are not afraid to think outside of the box to increase sales – whether it’s a special promotion like Sleigh Days in December, or an intense three-day clearance sale in March to move out old merchandise before the new items begin to arrive from the tradeshows.  Furthermore, the shop strives to create the best customer relations, and customers rave about complimentary gift wrapping and special targeted sales to encourage repeat customers.  The shop is successful because it is taking risks and monitoring the success of those risks to help gauge where to go in the future.  Their goal is to have the shop itself be a specially curated space that compliments the exhibitions and is equally as visually appealing.

March 2019 Winner

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Shop

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Shop, known as the VMFA Shop, extends the visitor experience by offering visually exciting window displays, wonderful product, and an open and spacious, modern feel. Visitors can enter from one of two entrances to discover a unique collection of curated paper products, jewellery, books, children’s items, home décor, and custom product all inspired by and reflective of the museum’s vast art collection. Visitors will encounter walls dedicated to regional craft artisans, Chihuly studio glass editions, and other product representative of the collection. With an extremely large and varied merchandise assortment and with price points from $1 to $8,000, there is something for everyone. The VMFA Shop also offers a dedicated exhibition shop for select exhibitions.

The VMFA Shop strives to include in its product offerings something that reflects every section of their extensive collection. The shop is constantly updating their product assortment, with buyers searching the globe for items that are unique and fabulous. Celebrating the rich talent of craft artisans who call Virginia their home, the team is especially proud of these regional offerings. They create custom items based on their own collection and for exhibitions, and their online presence, either through their own e-commerce site, on Facebook, or with dedicated customer emails, has continued to grow over the last three years. The VMFA Shop supports the mission of the institution to educate and enrich the lives of their visitors as they experience the shop and take a remembrance home with them. They are dedicated to exceptional customer service, are passionate about their visual merchandising, are focused on curating quality merchandise for their stores, and are ambassadors for their institution.

February 2019 Winner and STORE OF THE YEAR Winner

Waite and Peirce Authentic and Exotic Goods at Salem Maritime National Historic Site

The Waite and Peirce Authentic and Exotic Goods at Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Salem, MA, is a unique store concept inspired by the real story of Salem shippers and privateers, Aaron Waite and Jerathmiel Peirce, who conducted a merchant trade business at the wharf in Salem, MA. This immersive shopping experience interprets maritime history, international trade, and the relationship between the National Park Service and the local Salem community. The product assortment reflects the exotic goods that Waite & Peirce would have brought back to the historic wharf and ship repair building where the store is located.

The store features an exclusive line of Waite & Peirce apparel, jewelry, home goods, historical reproductions, collectibles, toys and gifts. In addition to traditional national park commemorative items, the store showcases handcrafted locally-made pieces. The store is beautifully merchandised to highlight the educational and historic themes that are interpreted by Eastern National staff. What makes this store special is that by reflecting the location’s history in maritime trade in their product assortment and designing an immersive shopping experience on the wharf, they have created a lifestyle brand that is connecting with local residents as well as appealing to national park tourists. The store’s tagline, Fortune Favors the Bold, tells it all!

January 2019 Winner

Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s exhibition Serious Play: Design in Mid-century America is a great collaboration between serious design and delightful playfulness, which is echoed in the exhibition-related product and how it is presented in the store.  The first thing visitors see when exiting the exhibition is the eye-catching clock wall which mimics the one in the show, drawing them into the store space.  The simple fixtures and bright colors carry through the feeling of fun from the exhibition, creating an exciting environment that encourages hands-on fun and highlights the merchandise.

The buying staff worked closely with curatorial in selecting merchandise directly relating to the look and feel of the exhibition.  The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Serious Play exhibition store delights visitors by continuing the exhibition’s more whimsical side of great design.  The bright colors and distinctive clock wall draw guests in to explore, play, learn, and maybe even take home items they saw in the exhibition. From a $2 spinning top to a $700 Nelson clock, there’s something for everyone.’s Bobby Tanzillo rated the store a show in itself, in his ranking of the top 5 reasons to see this show:

December 2018 Winner

American Saddlebred Museum

The American Saddlebred Museum (ASM) is known as the “Showplace for Saddlebreds” and the Museum’s Gift Shop reflects this motto with its wide array of equine-themed merchandise and products exclusive to the Saddlebred breed. The recently renovated store boasts a contemporary look which reflects the Saddlebred barn experience, and their wide array of merchandise includes clothing, accessories, books, home goods, children’s merchandise, and souvenirs.

The ASM Gift Shop reaches out to the Saddlebred community by having pop-up booths at local and national Saddlebred horse shows.  The Gift Shop’s annual Gift Catalog is mailed to 6,000+ customers and is distributed throughout the year at special events and other locations, helping to drive phone sales throughout the year. The Gift Shop utilizes an online sales platform to make sales easier for customers and leverages social media to increase sales.  The August 2018 issue of International Show Horse Magazine featured an article about the Gift Shop renovation and included a selection of exclusive items. This article helped to establish a relationship with the publication, and moving forward, highlights from the Gift Shop will be featured in each issue.

November 2018 Winner

Phoenix Art Museum

The team at the Phoenix Art Museum worked diligently on the research, product development, visual merchandising and sales in support of their fall exhibition, Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire. The result was a product assortment that reflects the institution’s mission as well as supporting the subjects and themes represented in the exhibition.  They worked with MSA vendor members on a thoughtfully curated product assortment to fit every price point and style and also worked with a local well-known artist team, the Fortoul Brothers, who has a large following.  Exhibition products are featured in their main window with a wide assortment of items, with more focused collections elsewhere in the store.  Children’s sizes of shirts are hung lower for ease of access to smaller hands.

The visual merchandising for the exhibition was done creatively while on a very limited budget – but still allowing for the seamless continuation of the exhibition experience through to the museum store. Creative use of various materials resulted in one of the best exhibition-centric windows the team has created.

October 2018 Winner

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

The Shops of George Washington’s Mount Vernon provide critical support to Mount Vernon.  Their mission is to educate customers on the history of George Washington and the Founding Fathers through their purchases of books and products that they find fun and appealing.  Mount Vernon receives more than 1.1 million international and domestic visitors each year.

Its broad customer demographic encompasses many children’s groups (almost 1/3 of visitation), seniors traveling on bus tours, local visitors looking for high-end gifts and reproductions and the thousands of individuals and families who travel to Mount Vernon each year. The Shops are exceptional in that they successfully offer a broad spectrum of products to suit all levels of taste, monetary constraints, product expectations and time available to shop. Mount Vernon is well aware that many customers only visit Mount Vernon once in their lifetime, and they want customers to be able to purchase mementos of their visit to George Washington’s beloved home that are educational, a good value and something they will cherish for years to come.