AUSTINTOWN -- Meeting a new friend and receiving inspiration at a craft show led to the creation of Dar Lane's Basket Gifts & amp; Fine Wines.
Darlene Kromer was at Youngstown State University pursuing a degree in fine arts when she met Elaine Krakar through her husband, Tom Krakar, who was an art instructor.
"At about the same time, I went to a craft show and saw someone selling gift baskets. That was 1987, and I thought, what a fun business that would be," Kromer said.
Krakar told her she was looking for a business idea, and the two decided that baskets would be it.
Popularity: Within one year, the women outgrew their 500-square-foot Cornersburg store.
"When we started out, we had one basket supplier and about a dozen different products, such as candy, a gourmet coffee line, preserves, cookies and some handcrafted items," Kromer said.
In 1989, they moved the store to the center of the Westgate Plaza.
"We were scared. We had grown so fast, and we were moving from 500 to 1,500 square feet, so we had higher rent, higher utilities, and we also had to buy new carpeting and store fixtures," she said.
It took four years before the business made money.
"Everything we made until then was turned back into the business, but then we started to see a customer base developing and began getting corporate orders," she said.
Another boost to the business was the acquisition of a beer and wine license.
"It was a nice addition to our inventory. We could now do baskets with beer and wine themes. For example, we have the Beer Buster, which is a six-pack with snacks. It's a great gift for a guy," she said.
Another move: In 1997, the space for the business was doubled when it moved to the end of the plaza.
"This time we were still a little nervous, but more confident," Kromer said.
Last summer, when the Krakars retired and moved to Florida, Kromer bought them out.
She attributes her success to her ability to meet the needs of her customers.
"Each basket is personalized and filled with different items specifically requested by the gift-giver. Even the bows are hand-tied using the recipient's favorite color," she said.
Kromer said she is always brainstorming and trying to come up with different theme baskets.
"A very popular one is an Elvis basket. One time we came up with a wine and soup basket. That didn't go over too well, so we took it apart and started all over again," she said with a laugh.