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Tiptons: Spoiling customers for nearly a century
Bea Bowlsby and daughter Brenda Franklin of Tipton’s and Gifts share a laugh while looking over one of the many books of bridal invitations on hand. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
It can’t be said that a lot hasn’t changed at Tipton’s Stationery and Gifts since they opened their doors 47 years ago.

The initial business – just a tiny parcel merely a third of the size of the inside of the store today – was all that Bea Bowlsby had to work with when the doors first opened.

Eventually the bar next door became available and the wall that houses some of the store’s fine china and utensils as well as gifts became a permanent fixture. When the shoe store that was behind the building closed down, they found the perfect place to expand their office supply section.

Even the old hotel upstairs became part of the institution that has seen many changing faces right in the heart of Manteca’s commercial core.

But throughout the decades and the ever-changing landscape, the customer service that Bowlsby and daughter Brenda Franklin provide has remained steadily constant and helped the business remain one of Manteca’s long-running fixtures.

“I think that people here in Manteca want to support local businesses – even more so now,” Franklin said. “People are more aware of where their tax dollars are going – whether they’re supporting their schools or their police department, and I think that really helps local businesses like us.”

Throughout the store, neatly organized sections containing everything from hand-painted ceramic collectibles to crystal centerpieces fill the space that has been a part of the community for almost a half-century.

It isn’t all that uncommon for women to came in and register for their own weddings bringing their daughters in for their big day – something that Franklin said has been happening more and more lately.

And the general customer base extends far beyond Manteca with people who make trips from Lodi, Woodbridge, Stockton, and even Burson to pick up something for a friend or something new to add to the house.

But the true success of Tipton’s isn’t contained in the friendly attitudes of Bowlsby and Franklin and the nearly impeccable layout of the historic building.

It’s a red ledger that Franklin uses to keep the names of customers who purchase collectibles every year – whether they’re local residents or people who have moved across the country.

From column to column, names and the number of ornaments or specially designed flutes fill the pages and tell the story of the personal connection that has enabled the store to remain a staple even in the age of big-box retailers that carry some of the same things.

“Every year we’ll call somebody up and tell them that we’ve got their ornaments and they’re ready to be sent out,” Franklin said. “We have some people that we ship to that used to live here but don’t want to go anywhere else.

“We make it possible for them.”

It’s a tactic that they also use with their office products – helping to keep them competitive against some of the low-cost retailers that were supposed to put them out of business.

It’s going the extra mile – like driving to Hilmar or Woodbridge on Sunday to deliver items for a wedding when the store is usually closed – that Franklin credits with both keeping the doors open and the customers happy.

“Taking care of people is what helps us survive,” Franklin said. “We know that we can’t do this without our customers, and we want to give them everything that we can – that’s all you can do.”