Photo by Michael Taylor
Sheila Gasper is the manager of The Blue Dragonfly. It's a gift shop that is part of the Family Partnerships of CT. run by the store's owner, Susan Miller. Family Partnerships of CT. is an agency dedicated to assisting individuals with special needs by providing them with job sites within shops, restaurants, and helping with the Thrifty Reminder (rebranded as Courant Community in recent years). The Blue Dragonfly is a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
Sheila, a lifelong Windsor resident, started her career at Loomis Chaffee School as an administrator in the Physical Plant Department (maintenance) for twenty years until her position was eliminated. She knew Susan Miller's sister who told her Susan planned to open a gift shop in 2014. Sheila recounts, "Would you be our store manager? And I was like, okay. It was a little scary but I said, OK, I could do it! And four years later that's where I am." Since then, The Blue Dragonfly has grown and flourished. As Sheila says "It's a gift shop with a purpose," regarding the partnership with Family Partnerships of CT. "I love the people who come to the store, our customers. You know, all of our guys who work here because this is a job site for them. They do a lot of the cleaning, help set up the displays, do all of the pricing with their job coaches next to them. They're just a big part of the store."
She meets with vendors to decide on what products to stock up and sometimes it's a personal decision before the owner has the final say. "You don't know what to order, or how much. When the product comes in sometimes you might have ten of one item and if it won't sell, then you're stuck with them or put them on sale. But for the most part, our customers are great." Displays are changed often enough to keep customers guessing what's new. "You don't want to keep coming to a store that's set up the same way," Sheila advises. Perhaps that's what keeps The Blue Dragonfly in the hearts and minds of all those who enter. It certainly doesn't hurt that the shop garnered first runner-up status in the Best of Hartford Reader's Poll.
Prices are made fair. "Some people think we're too high in some things. We're really not. We're kind of in-line with everybody else. We have to pay our guys that work here. We have to pay for the shipping. I don't think a lot of customers realize what is involved in retail. It's not about just receiving the product. It's expensive to run." Sheila notes all of the maintenance and upkeep it takes to run a business itself. In the meantime, to generate more business, the shop hosts different events throughout the year. Paint parties provided by local artist Irene Hilbert are a big draw for customers.
Aside from being a lifelong Windsor resident, Sheila raised her four children here. She refers to herself as a "Windsor girl," and her husband as a "Deerfield boy." As the community grows, Sheila is excited to see the changes and growth in town, from The Windsor Station Apartments to the renovated movie plaza theater/restaurant. On her off time, Sheila loves to spend time with her grandson.
Three words that describe Sheila: Kind, honest, out-going
The Blue Dragonfly is located at 144A Broad St. (860)580-7928