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Briarcliff’s Wondrous Things on How to Stay Successful for 20 Years

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Donald Borho in his Briarcliff Manor shop | Photos by Stefan Radtke

Wondrous Things in Briarcliff Manor has made shopping for that person “who has it all” a breeze since 2001. With whimsical gifts of accessories, jewelry, handbags, apparel, and home products from contemporary and established designers, the shop has managed to evolve over time while remaining true to its core values.

Donald Borho purchased the original Wondrous Things shop — then located in Croton-on-Hudson — in 1989, after having worked in retail for a couple of years. Borho knew he wanted to own his own business someday, so when the Wondrous Things owner decided to sell, young Borho was more than enthusiastic. “I was 24 years old,” he recalls, “and I just jumped in with both feet.” Borho expanded the Croton shop into two locations and launched the Briarcliff location in September 2001 (the Croton stores closed in 2008).

Donald and his sister, Jane Borho, have operated the Briarcliff mainstay together for years, upholding a steady business and loyal customer base. The key to long-term success has been taking care of their clients, “knowing the customer, knowing what they like — being friendly and outgoing with the people who support your business,” Borho shares. He explains they have always “maintained a very solid presence and a very honest way of doing business. We’ve been very steady in the way we merchandise and the way we bought product for our store.”

The two visit markets to create a carefully curated collection that “has been very fluid and keeps up with the times, without being too fad-like,” he says. The shop is focused on carrying goods from smaller companies, “products that are not available as much online, items that can’t be mass-produced,” Borho explains. Popular are timeless staples like Thymes soaps and lotions, fragrances, and wind chimes; Brighton jewelry; and Michael Aram picture frames and serving platters.

Wondrous Things, like its enduring product lines, has transcended both time and tragedy, considering it opened around 9/11, survived the financial crisis of 2008, and is now contending with the ravages of COVID-19. The biggest change Borho has seen in the industry since opening has been the advent of online shopping —
yet, Wondrous Things does not have an e-commerce platform. The Borhos offered it for a time in the late ’90s/early 2000s, but it was not cost-effective, Borho explains. While COVID-19 posed a challenge for the staff of two (the shop was closed for more than three months), the Borhos adapted — without the web. When foot traffic was nonexistent, Jane debuted a virtual-shopping service, video chatting with customers (even out-of-state) to showcase inventory, which worked well. They hope to continue the service, even though in-person shopping has since resumed.

While he has no plans to expand or add locations, Borho is nowhere near ready to hang it up. “I definitely have a good, probably 10 more years in me,” he says. “It doesn’t seem like I’ve been doing it as long as I have, because I still really do enjoy it. I think that as long as we stay true to our customers and follow the trends, we’ll be fine.”