Oroville Live Like a Local Gift Shops

Live Like a Local: Shop Mary Lake-Thompson

I’m a suck­er for a good deal — always have been. Add a sale stick­er or call it an out­let, and I’m all over it.

The Mary Lake-Thomp­son out­let in Down­town Oroville is one of Butte County’s best-kept secrets for gifts, home décor — and good deals.

Mary Lake-Thomp­son is an Oroville artist whose small greet­ing card busi­ness in the late-80s has grown into a mul­ti-mil­lion kitchen and gift­ware com­pa­ny with a nation­al fol­low­ing that includes Oprah Win­frey. You’ll find Lake-Thompson’s clas­sic, yet whim­si­cal items in thou­sands of gift shops, nation­al parks, muse­ums and resorts, as well as major retail­ers like Way­fair, Macy’s and Hall­mark.

On a recent trip to her store, charm­ing hooked pil­lows and rugs fea­tur­ing her dog designs and catchy sum­mer slo­gans hung in the win­dow. Though small in size, the store (once the town’s pub­lic library) is filled with gor­geous dis­plays show­cas­ing her col­lec­tions. Most items are 50 per­cent of retail prices, and some end-of-sea­son items and sec­onds include even deep­er discounts.

Whim­si­cal and Sea­son­al Finds

Lake-Thompson’s prod­ucts fea­ture farm ani­mals, flow­ers, bikes, bees, sea­son­al hol­i­days, and kitchen and gar­den designs, and the store is art­ful­ly arranged by those sea­son­al themes and col­lec­tions. I usu­al­ly vis­it the store a few times a year to stock up on unique gifts for hol­i­days, birth­days, and host­ess gifts. Her prod­ucts — which include hun­dreds of items from scent­ed soaps, linens, and bak­ing mix­es to paper goods, kitchen­ware, ceram­ics and more — make a sub­stan­tial gift with an inex­pen­sive price tag.

Her best-sell­ing flour sack tea tow­els have been a favorite of mine for years. Made from super-soft white flour sack mate­r­i­al, these light­weight tow­els are extreme­ly absorbent, large, and print­ed with her beau­ti­ful designs. A set of two tow­els typ­i­cal­ly retails between $18 to $20; the out­let price is $8.75. Fac­to­ry sec­onds of these tow­els are fea­tured in bins for only $1.95. Her pret­ty linen nap­kins are often sold as great­ly reduced sec­onds, too.

Today, I found her styl­ish ren­di­tion of bees on nap­kins, notepads, totes, and her ever-pop­u­lar melamine plates, which, along with the melamine plat­ters, are a com­pa­ny best-sell­er. I saw cre­ative designs for camp­ing, BBQs, mixed fruit and those cute bees. A few years back, I snapped up crab plates and plat­ters for din­ners and crab feeds. 

You can also find one-of-a-kind décor pieces, jew­el­ry, and art that Lake-Thomp­son brings into the store from the many gift shows she attends. On my trip, it includ­ed a series of Audubon bird prints and unique neck­laces. The prints were stun­ning and a great price.

Live Like a Local: Shop Mary Lake-Thompson

Clas­sic Designs; Pop­u­lar Products

I got to talk with Mary Lake-Thomp­son on my vis­it — you can often find her in the store or its back room work­ing with her design­ers. She’s a live­ly, blue-eyed grand­moth­er who explains that she’s been an artist since child­hood and loves telling sto­ries through her art­work. She describes her design aes­thet­ic as Euro­pean, with clean Scan­di­na­vian lines. Her design­ers add descrip­tions like coun­try folk, coun­try kitchen, eccen­tric, fun and whim­si­cal. That clean, clas­sic look is what I think makes her prod­ucts so pop­u­lar.

That pop­u­lar­i­ty has led major retail­ers and com­pa­nies to ask for licens­ing agree­ments and cus­tom design work. She’s cre­at­ed work for Eddie Bauer, Pot­tery Barn, Williams Sono­ma, Dis­ney, Paula Deen, and even the White House, among oth­ers. She even cre­at­ed a spe­cial recipe tow­el for Pres­i­dent Obama’s spe­cial hon­ey ale a few years back.

Enjoy a Visit

You won’t want to miss the store’s annu­al hol­i­day sale in Novem­ber. Peo­ple from hours away dri­ve for huge­ly dis­count­ed items. Check the store’s Face­book page for dates and details.

As for my trip, I end­ed up with bags filled with tea tow­els, notepads, linen nap­kins, rasp­ber­ry jam and a box of match­es with a cute Audubon bird design. I have a thing for Audubon birds. I might just have to go back for those prints.