Aultman Hospital is upping the gift-shop ante, opening a new retail space that combines flowers and cards with Christmas decorations, dehumidifiers and gallons of milk.
Typically, patients have to go outside the hospital walls to get everything they need after discharge. That's inconvenient for patients and their families, who just want to get home and relax, said Missi Mangino-Steepleton, executive director of retail operations at Aultman.
The new Shoppes at Aultman aim to change that. The retail space combines a florist, gift shop, clothing store, medical supply store, convenience store and pharmacy into one location.
A patient can fill a prescription, buy milk and bread, get whatever else he or she needs and just go home, Mangino-Steepleton said.
"We just don't want you to have to go out and run around after you leave the hospital," she said.
The shops opened Nov. 6, and Aultman will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.
The concept is nearly 9 years in the making. The hospital first began discussing an expanded retail space in 2005, and really got to work on the concept in 2009, Mangino-Steepleton said. They've spent the last six months transferring shops to the new location.
The shops are in an open walkway connecting the hospital's two lobbies, which includes a 24-hour post office collection box and an ATM.
The area is designed with big windows, plants and benches to "bring the outside in," she said.
"We're trying to give visitors and employees a place where they don't feel like they're in a hospital. Just for a minute."
It's already become a popular gathering place at lunch, she added.
But not every part of the shop embraces the bustle.
The Shoppes Boutique, located in a quiet, private store in the back of the shops, sells items for cancer patients. It stocks beauty and skin products, alongside apparel, gifts, wigs, turbans and hats.
The store also carries everyday items, like specially-made deodorant that can be used by a patient undergoing radiation, Mangino-Steepleton said.
"(Patients) can get all the items you don't necessarily think about, that cancer patients need after they have radiation and chemo," said Denise Hill, president of the Women's Board of Aultman Hospital. "It's important."
The store also sells breast prosthetics and other items for women who have undergone a mastectomy. Patients can have confidential and private fittings with Certified Mastectomy Fitters.
For women undergoing cancer treatment, image is a huge issue, said Judy Simonson, the boutique's certified mastectomy fitter.
After a mastectomy, some women "feel empty. They wear baggier clothes so it isn't as noticeable," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Before, Aultman had a company come in once a month to work with patients, or referred them to stores in Cleveland or Columbus. Now, patients can stay at the hospital and use their insurance, Mangino-Steepleton said.
Mercy Medical Center has a similar store, but Aultman patients may not be able to use their insurance there, she said.
The boutique, and the rest of the shops, are a way of making a hospital visit more convenient and maybe a bit better, Mangino-Steepleton said.
"Let's face it: Unless you're here to have a baby, you don't want to be here," she said.
The shops are a joint effort between the hospital and the women's board. The board pledged $700,000 toward the shops, and all of the shop's proceeds, minus insurance billable items like prescriptions, go back to the board.
The shops are staffed by Aultman employees alongside board volunteers.
"We have a dedicated group of volunteers who have been interested in the gift shop literally for almost 40 years," said Hill.
The board helped create the hospital's initial gift shop in 1975 as a way to raise funds, she said. The new space continues that work but also gives them a chance to participate in patient care.
"It's a great concept, and we're really excited about it," Hill said.
The shops also compliment the board's current goal: To raise $5 million for Aultman's cancer center.