Standing proudly at 184 Main St., just a few short stops away from campus on the Johnson City West Side bus, is Tom’s Coffee, Cards & Gifts, somewhat of an institution in Downtown Binghamton. With its pink stucco exterior, you can’t really miss the building. Its unique trend continues as you step inside the store.
Tom’s is probably best described as an eclectic, indie department store. Think Teavana meets your local antique shop, with a cafe? inside. The inventory of this two- room shop spans all categories, varieties and cultures, so there is something for everyone.
Tom Kelleher opened Tom’s in 1982, with the goal of focusing on gourmet coffees and handcrafted American art. Over the past 29 years, the inventory has expanded to related and equally fascinating items.
But as eclectic as it may be, there is a running theme to what is sold at Tom’s.
“Everything here is based on form, design and color. It has to have some artistic bend in one way or the other,” Kelleher said. He also pointed out that he travels around the country for new merchandise and buys from individual artisans.
From food and coffee to jewelry to prom and wedding gowns to wooden art, the little shop’s genre is hard to define.
The vast array of products may initially give the impression that there is no rhyme or reason to any of it, but it is evident that there is a certain artistic flare to everything in the store. It is as if it was picked out by hand and it was.
“If I like it, it goes into the store,” Kelleher said. “But everything can’t be exactly my taste. It has to be things that others will enjoy as well.”
Upon first entering Tom’s, you are greeted with the strong aroma of coffee and incense,
a mix that is slightly atypical but still works. A selection of gourmet coffee spans the far left wall of the store. A mix of cookie and cake mixes, chips and dips and salsas, and candies and chocolates fills the rest of the room, with samples provided for your enjoyment. Occasionally, a rack full of handmade jewelry or witty greeting cards peak out from within.
A sign out front reads “Prom Dresses are In,” causing one to wonder how the dresses could possibly fit in such a store. Rack upon rack of color-coded gowns of brilliant embroidery and painted silks fill the space. Handmade wool caps, brightly colored purses and scarves, and sparkling jewelry lay on the shelves.
But it doesn’t end at clothing and accessories. There is a corner of this room dedicated to children’s toys and games, and another filled with everyday household objects with a unique flair, from clothespin chopsticks to a spoon rest pillow to “cradle your ladle.”
Another section is devoted to hand-blown glass and objects full of crystals and jewels that you would have a hard time finding elsewhere — like a handmade kaleidoscope. One end of the store is reserved for cultural pieces — one corner is filled with Japanese tea and sake sets, while another is filled with Indian-inspired oils and incense.
Add all of this to the take-out coffee bar (featuring flavors such as Mind Body and Soul, Triple Walnut Shortbread, Tip of the Andes and Southern Pecan) and a display case filled with giant, gourmet chocolate truffles and you have quite the assortment of goods.
“[The store] drives my whole life,” Kelleher said.
Over the nearly three decades since he opened Tom’s, he feels that he has achieved what he set out to do.
“People like it, they keep coming back. And that’s really what the vision is,” he said.
With prices ranging from $5 to $100, finding something at Tom’s is not a difficult task. You lose yourself within the store, but you probably won’t want to be found.