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'Gifted' opens at East Georgia Regional Medical Center
Gift shop was closed for past 15 months
Gifted - EMPLOYEES Web
"Gifted" employees, back row left to right, Hailey Allgood, Ali Rushing and Wynne Phillips with shop owner Jeanie Gay, right, and Andrea Davis, left front, who helped at the opening, hold some of the merchandise. - photo by Photo Courtesy Jeanie Gay

        Measuring about 500 square feet, Gifted is one of the smallest stores you're likely to read about here, but it has a highly visible location - inside East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
        The gift shop, which had been closed about 15 months, reopened June 23 as an independent business. Entrepreneur Jeanie Gay is renting the shop from the hospital and gave it the new name, "Gifted."
        "This is a really good opportunity that I just kind of stumbled on it and found out it was available for lease," said Gay, who also operates Rushing Insurance and is property manager of the Simmons Shopping Center downtown.
        Previously, going back to before the hospital was East Georgia Regional, when it was Bulloch Memorial Hospital on Grady Street, volunteers operated the gift shop. Most recently, the Auxiliary of East Georgia Regional ran it, with volunteers working under the supervision of a gift shop manager.
        This is the first time an independent businessperson has run the shop, confirmed Jill Cairney, the hospital's director of marketing and volunteer services.
        The late Pete Rushing, Gay's father, founded Rushing Insurance in 1982, specializing in crop insurance, still a mainstay of the now full-service agency. Both Rushing Insurance and the Simmons Center are owned by Gay, her brothers and their mother.
        Gay worked as a computer programmer for a life insurance company in Atlanta before joining her family's firm as an agent 20 years ago, and so has about 30 years total experience in insurance.
        Although managing a shopping center has given her years of indirect exposure, Gay's direct work in retail was previously limited to her first, part-time job in high school. Perhaps those six months in the jewelry department at the old Rose's Variety Store gave her the bug to one day run a gift shop and create part-time jobs for students.
        "I decided it was a good business opportunity and would be something kind of exciting and different to do," Gay said.
        While she is usually downtown at the insurance office, Rushing is employing three young women, all currently college students, to serve customers at Gifted. Ali Rushing is her niece, and Hailey Allgood and Wynne Phillips are friends' relatives.
        Gifted stocks jewelry, purses, some baby items, books, candy and cards. Working with a local florist, the shop also sells fresh flowers and balloons.
        "The hospital has received an overwhelmingly positive response to having the gift shop open again," Cairney said. "I received so many comments about how sad it was that it had closed, and it is just fabulous to be able to walk past a stocked shop and see employees and visitors taking advantage of the great merchandise and prices at Gifted."
        The Gifted owner's observations suggest that hospital employees have a sweet tooth, or maybe they've just been discovering the place and giving candy as gifts.
        "We've got a candy counter you wouldn't believe. ... " Gay said. "We sell usually over 100 candy items a day. And those employees love it. They come and get candy every day."
        Sweets regularly available include Jelly Belly jellybeans, Russell Stover candies, and many loose, "vintage-type" candies, such as Squirrel Nut Zippers, Caramel Creams and Hershey's Kisses.
        Gifted is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., after an experiment with opening an hour earlier didn't pay off.
        Gay is operating the shop as a for-profit enterprise, paying a straight rent to the hospital, which is now an affiliate of Community Health Systems, America's largest for-profit hospital chain in number of locations.
        Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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