Not everyone wants to take home a souvenir T-shirt when leaving Palm Springs. Some might like some locally made Brandini Toffee.
Put that toffee inside a metal commemorative Palm Springs International Film Festival tin resembling those that movie reels come in, and it’s not only a souvenir, but a great gift with a unique Palm Springs mojo.
“We saw these tins and they were stuffed with that cheap popcorn, and we said, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got some of the best treats here,’” said Jeffrey Bernstein, who works with Destination PSP, a Palm Springs-themed gift and souvenir store where the one-pound tins of toffee can be purchased for $30 each. “It makes perfect sense.”
“This is something where they can take this home, and hopefully enjoy a great product. And so it’s been a beautiful partnership,” said Brandon Weimer, one of the founders of Brandini Toffee, based in Rancho Mirage and with a store in downtown Palm Springs. “I heard they’re selling pretty well, and I think the tin looks awesome, and is hopefully a collector’s item.”
Destination PSP in downtown Palm Springs may be one of finer examples of a trend in the souvenir business that stresses unique, place-specific gifts that are well-made and often locally made.
“When we got together to create the business, we thought, we really want something that’s unique, to make Palm Springs unique to the souvenir business,” explained Clark Bason, who also works with Destination PSP.
“A lot of the idea behind our products is stuff that people here would want to send home,” Bernstein added.
In the more typical world of the souvenir business, the products are not generally locally designed but have a stamped-out sameness where only the place name is changed, say those in the business.
“You would go to a store, or to the airport, and you would see that exact same font on a shirt that you would get in Washington D.C.,” said Bason. “Or you’d see coconut fronds with waves and beach that said ‘Palm Springs,’ and that’s not what Palm Springs is.”
So Destination PSP sought out to create unique gifts that both reflect and reinforce the Palm Springs brand. And some of the most popular items do not say Palm Springs at all, but convey a particular sense of style and sensibility the town is naturally known for.
“This is the concrete block design,” said Bernstein, pointing to melamine dinnerware printed with the simple mod, geometric design. “These are known designs, but we said, this is what now reflects Palm Springs, because it’s mid-century, it’s clean. The colors are bright colors.”
That aside, the typical T-shirts and mugs are still hot items for travelers, said Mary Jo Ginther, director of tourism at the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, which operates the Palm Springs Visitors Center.
“We have a lot of international customers that want to take a memento home, and those two qualities are still important,” she said. “Seasonal merchandise still moves — today, we sold lots of hoodies because of the weather. In the summer, we sell cami’s and tank tops.”
And even in the days of rapid communication, postcards are still big sellers. However, if travelers are going to go the snail-mail route, they might as well do it with a postcard evoking the past as well.
“The vintage postcards are a hit,” Ginther said. “Lots of these are sold each month.”
But Palm Springs is more than an endless pool party and golf game. It is filled with organizations like the Desert AIDS Project, the Palm Springs Animal Shelter and Coyote Stageworks. Many of the organizations, and efforts of the Coachella Valley have shelf-space at Destination PSP, because travelers are conscious of and care about these issues, and will support them with product purchases, Bernstein said.
“There’s a lot of people who support AIDS charities worldwide,” he added. “They come, they can buy this cool shirt. It tells them about Desert AIDS Project. It benefits Desert AIDS Project.”
Tourism Reporter Skip Descant can be reached at Skip.Descant@desertsun.com and (760) 778-6409.