More Than a Shop

Debbie Binkley has managed the Friends Shop at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt since it opened in 2004. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Retail therapy is how many shoppers justify their bulging closets, but that new purse or coat purchased in the Friends Shop at the Monroe Carell Jr.

Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is truly part of the healing process — the source of the toy or balloon that brightens a
patient’s stay, an escape for families and staff, and, for all who purchase something, a way to support the mission of the hospital.

But don’t let store manager Debbie Binkley hear you call the Friends Shop a “gift shop.” She has worked tirelessly to shape it into a specialty boutique, offering the most innovative toys, the hottest plush (retail-speak for stuffed animals) and on-trend clothes and accessories.

“We work hard to be a true boutique and make sure we don’t have what everyone else in Nashville has. Our store is
whimsical and fun and not what you would expect in a hospital,” Binkley said.

And that hard work has paid off. Within three years of its 2004 opening, the Friends Shop had paid off all its start-up debt and is able to give back about $75,000 of profits each year to Children’s Hospital.

“For a store of our size, even if we were in the private sector, it would be really hard to have that much profit, so we’re very proud of that,” Binkley said.

– by Leslie Hill

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