I’m inspired. There is a great new spot in Westfield that offers sushi, fries, pizza, bacon and pickles. OK, it’s not exactly new, but after just 2 years on South Ave by Rocky the Tailor, Inspire just relocated to new spacious surroundings at 217 Elmer Street. And you can play with your food. OK, it’s not exactly food. But it might help put food on the table for someone less fortunate.
The Inspire website explains that the store “provides a unique shopping experience while giving back to the people that need it.” All profits are donated to charity. As long as there has been a global economy, parents have chided their children to finish their plates of food because of starving children in China. Inspire puts its money where its mouth is. You can buy a trendy new fluffy pair of PJ’s and feel good about it because your money is helping to clothe the poor. Besides saving the world, it’s also a really fun place to shop, especially if you are a foodie.
This philanthropic craft and gift store is filled with stuff that looks like food but isn’t. You’ll find a photo album that looks like an overflowing side of fries and piggy banks fashioned after bowls of dumplings and sushi. Then there is stuff that looks like toys but is really food, like the party in a box – a metal tin filled with party fixins like cake mix, sprinkles, a balloon, a candle and a favor. There are also food-themed items like pickle Band Aids, bacon dental floss and apple pie scented candles.
I enjoyed a tour of the store by owner Leslie Weissglass and her son Matt who works at the store part-time and was getting ready for football practice. They showed off a mustache cake mold and the world’s largest gummy worm. “People love mustaches,” Weissglass observed, and she should know. She travels to trade shows and conventions to find the must-have gifts and collectibles for kids, tweens, teens and the young-at-heart adults.
If you are into monkeys, pickles, bacon, mustaches and/or peace signs, you will love this store. Right now the focus is on back to school shopping. Inspire has Undee Bundee tie-dye lunch boxes, insulated totes that say “peace, love, lunch” and Dylan’s Candy Bar themed placemats. For back-to-old-school shopping, you will find old-fashioned candy sticks, nostalgic bulk candy bins, Metropolitan Tea Company tea leaves in maple and peppermint and Aspen Mulling Company Spice Mix and Fudge Mix.
Inspire is way more than a tchotchke shop full of themed trinkets and novelty gifts. Inspire sells merchandise with a mission. The purchase of stuffed animals raises funds for Heifer International which strives to end world hunger. Inspire already donated over $5,000 of its first profits to build a school in Haiti with help from the Free the Children organization. They are currently raising funds to buy an Ark. An Ark is 15 pairs of animals for a family in need. They in turn will pass the animal’s offspring to other families who are in need in their community. Every gift will multiply for years to comeThe store also works locally to support the Westfield Red Cross, Paul Jackson Fund, Relay for Life, Play for Pink and school PTOs. They even host fundraising events in the store and support campaigns to donate proceeds to a given charity in a particular week.
As local residents, their growth is attributed in large part to support by the Westfield community and word of mouth in lieu of traditional advertising. Those in the know are aware that the ubiquitous Inspire bag with its owl logo means you are giving or receiving a fabulous birthday present or party favor. To Inspire, giving truly is receiving. Their plan seems to be working. At a time when chains are taking over downtown and stores are failing to thrive, Inspire is hugely successful and expanding into bigger spaces. They call it having the gifts that give back.
I call it a fantastic store with something for everyone. Except lunch. Try the Westfield Diner or Xocolatz further down the block. But come back to satisfy your sweet tooth and satisfy your soul, knowing that the macaroni & cheese jigsaw puzzle and penny candy you picked up is actually helping to end world hunger.
To learn more about Inspire, their merchandise and the organizations they support, visit their website, or their store at 217 Elmer Street in Westfield, NJ.
Lauren Weiss blogs for Westfield Foodie and will soon launch The Foodie State column at The Alternative Press. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.