Can We Move (and Save) the Gift Shop?

Mural depicts potential new location for Connucopia Gift Shop
A mural shows passers-by where the new Connucopia Gift Shop would be located in the UConn Health main building if fundraising goals are met. The UConn Health Auxliary, which opened the gift shop in 1975, is seeking to relocate the shop a more heavily-traveled area in hopes of driving up sales and becoming sustainable again. (Photo by Jeff Eckleberry)

Picture the Connucopia Gift Shop celebrating its 45th anniversary next year by opening its doors amid heavy foot traffic in the heart of UConn Health’s main building.

Now, picture UConn Health with no gift shop at all.

A bustling gift shop historically is a key part of the culture of a successful hospital. But the gift shop at UConn Health is far from bustling. Sales have dwindled since its relocation to the University Tower mezzanine in 2016. This leaves the shop – and the UConn Health Auxiliary, which operates it – with a tenuous future.

The Auxiliary, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in May, has been a steady contributor of funding and programming to UConn Health for most of its history. UConn Health has the Auxiliary to thank for:

  • The Creative Child Center (originated as an Auxiliary program in 1977)
  • The UConn Health Art Collection (began as an Auxiliary program in 1979)
  • Scholarships and travel funds for medical, dental, public health and nursing students
  • The Dr. Jay Healy Endowed Chair in Medical Humanities and Bioethics
  • More than $9 million in financial support directly to the institution

A thriving gift shop made it possible for the Auxiliary to support the institution in these and other ways. To stabilize the Auxiliary’s future, the gift shop would need to thrive once again. The mission now is to find prime real estate – and the funding to build and relocate.

Today, the Auxiliary is asking for your support, working with the UConn Foundation toward a goal to raise $150,000 to move to a more prominent location.

In its heyday, conspicuously situated in the front lobby of the main building, the gift shop was the known go-to place for staff, patients, visitors, and students to pick up cards, flowers, snacks, and last-minute gifts, all tax-free. (Gift shop purchases are exempt from Connecticut sales tax because of the affiliation with the Auxiliary.)

The new target space abuts the heavily traveled corridor leading to the Food Court, between the Radiology Department and the hallway that connects the main building to the University Tower.

Walk from the Food Court toward the University Tower and you’ll notice signs designed to catch the eye of passers-by and help them envision a new shop in this location.

The fundraiser debuted with UConn Gives 2019, March 27 and 28. Together, we can keep the gift shop open and restore the success of the past – all in a new location that would drive business and enable the Auxiliary to thrive again! Make a donation today and watch for more information on how you can help in the weeks to come.

Interactive Resource for Patients Coming Soon

Users of the Patient and Family Education Center kiosks in the Outpatient Pavilion will see a welcome screen like this.
Users of the Patient and Family Education Center kiosks in the Outpatient Pavilion will see a welcome screen like this.

The first of two kiosks to go with the UConn Health Auxiliary Patient and Family Education Center in the Outpatient Pavilion has arrived.

The kiosks will enable patients and visitors to access health information via L. M. Stowe Library’s HealthNet service, an outreach resource designed as a tool for them to research health questions.

Patient information kiosk
Wendy Urciuoli (left) and Irene Engel demonstrate one of the kiosks that will be available for use in the UConn Health Auxiliary Patient and Family Education Center. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)

The Auxiliary Patient and Family Education Center is located on both the second and third floors of the Outpatient Pavilion. The second floor kiosk will go online first, likely in the coming weeks. The kiosks will have print capability and offer guided accesses to vetted health websites, community services and hospital programs.

“Providing high-quality information resources which are convenient and easy to use will help patients learn about their health conditions and empower them to become more active in managing their health care,” says HealthNet librarian Wendy Urciuoli.

A half dozen notebook computers also will be available to patients, enabling access in areas in the Outpatient Pavilion beyond the Patient and Family Education Center locations. The Auxiliary has purchased a machine that will sanitize the notebooks after each use to prevent the spread of germs.

“The doctors also will use this as a resource for patients. They’re excited about where we’re going with this,” says UConn Health Auxiliary Facilitator Irene Engel. “This is for educational purposes, so patients leave their appointments with a better understanding.”

More information about HealthNet is available by calling 860.679.4047 or emailing