By Alicia Dziak

First opened in 1997 by Ellicottville native and ECS graduate Suzanne Roberts, Gado Gado has become a staple in the community. Over the years, Ellicottville has changed, the store has changed, and Roberts moved hundreds of miles away to Chicago, but one thing has remained the same—Gado Gado still offers a unique selection of items you can’t find just anywhere.

Since 1997, Roberts has seen Ellicottville evolve. “As a destination point, it seems to get busier every year,” she said of her hometown. “Years ago, there was a very definitive slow season, and over the years,  I’ve noticed an increase in traffic year-round.”

When it first opened, Gado Gado shared a space with Nature’s Remedy. These days, they still share a wall, but occupy separate store fronts. “We’ve always been with them and have a great relationship,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot of positive energy between us.”

Gado Gado went from selling mostly goods from Indonesia in the early days, to a current product line that is more focused on women’s clothing and accessories, in addition to fair trade essential oils, perfumes, incense, candles, and other gift items.

“We’ve also developed as an online business and ship orders all over the world,” Roberts explained.

Roberts continues to place emphasis on giving back. “It’s very important to me to give back to Ellicottville and Cattaraugus County, and to regularly support various organizations,” she said.

Roberts moved to Chicago about 12 years ago, and made the decision to keep the store open. “When you own a business, it becomes like another child, and I just wasn’t ready to lose my store,” she said, making note of how hard she worked to get it open. While Roberts admits it can be a challenge, she still owns a house in Ellicottville and has family in the area, which makes it easier to return on a regular basis.

What helps keeps the store up and running in her absence is the staff, on average about seven women who work in the store. “The women range in age from 18 to 60 years old,” Roberts said. “Having this diversity of staff is fantastic because everyone has something different to offer. It also fits with my clientele, which includes a very wide range of ages and demographics.”

Roberts attributes her success to her wonderful support system. “I could never do this without my mother, sisters, family and the amazing women that work for me,” she said. “This anniversary is more about them than it is about me.”

What Roberts might be looking forward to most about the 20th anniversary party is reuniting with employees past and present. “Women I have worked with over the past two decades and other friends will be coming in from Colorado, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and it’ll be a blend of women who work for me now and others from over the years,” she said. “It’s the perfect way for us to come together.”

The celebration she is referring to is Gado Gado’s 20th anniversary party on Saturday, Nov. 18. The event is a cocktail party planned from 6 to 8 p.m. at the store at 26 Monroe Street, and is open to all. In addition to drinks and hors d’oeuvres, Gado Gado will be offering specials and giveaways throughout the evening.

“We welcome everyone, whether you’re a regular customer or not,” Roberts noted. “It’s a party and the door’s wide open!”