You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything like the new Recreation Gift Co. in downtown Newark. Its sneaky product offering is bottomless, and its products go in all directions, from home décor and toys to greeting cards and party supplies.
They opened in late November, located at 70 W Main Street in the same building and with the same owners as Whiskey River Soap. Recreation’s website, on the “about us” page, begins, “Well, that’s a long, convoluted story.”
Ask the owner, Tabitha Wilson, and you’ll hear of a simpler origin. “We had this retail space sitting here and were excited to open a store.”
Wilson owns Whiskey River Soap, which has approximately 5,000 stores in the United States and Canada. Their soap and candle products, which mix fun messages, have gone viral in the past. Their Newark soap factory, housed in a three-and-a-half-story building, contained space that Wilson said would be a convenient location for a local gift shop.
And so, Recreation Gift Co. was born. The name comes from the history of the building.
“In the 1940s, the first floor was a roller rink,” Wilson said. “The second floor has a stage and a ballroom – it used to be a bingo hall and a bowling alley – and the third floor was a basketball court. The side of the building said ‘recreation’ because it was a kind of recreation center.
The gift shop retains the sensibilities of the old recreation center, with upcycled gym floors and even a vintage punching bag.
The products themselves have an irreverent and humorous aura similar to that of Whiskey River Soap. There’s the tote bag that says “nobody’s normal” and the sticker that says “I wonder if tacos think of me too.” There are greeting cards for every occasion, saying things like “you’re my favorite husband” and references to pop culture characters like Dwight Schrute from “The Office.”
“We believe there is a place for quality and humor to co-exist,” reads the Whiskey River Soap website.
Felisha McKeever, the store manager, pointed out that the new store may appeal to downtown Newark.
“I believe in downtown. I love what’s going on here (and) its revitalization. And I would like it to be a destination for people to come.
She continued, “This is a unique boutique that you won’t find anywhere else here.”