20171010_Arcane_ConnectFirst_09583.FIN.jpg It’s not hard to spot Elisa Maxwell. If it’s not her infectious laugh that pulls you in, her indomitable spirit will. She’s the owner of Hidden Secrets, a gift shop that’s been a staple in Strathmore for 12 years. But “business owner” isn’t the only hat she’s worn in this town – she’s been a single mom to five boys, a scout leader, and a hockey mom.

Elisa started Hidden Secrets to solve a problem that was driving her crazy: her oldest son was in elementary school and getting invited to birthday parties.

“The kid got basically the same gift from every other kid that was there, which was what was available from your mainstream box store, and it drove me nuts,” shares Elisa. “I thought: there’s gotta be a better way to give gifts that you don’t find everywhere else without breaking the bank.”

And so Hidden Secrets was born.

Although the shop has changed locations over the years, Elisa’s passion for what she does remains the same. In her new space, which is four times the size of her previous shop, she has yet to go a day without a regular customer coming in to catch up. And that community spirit is what will keep her in Strathmore for years to come.

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“Every one of them in the branch knows who I am. And not only that, they will tell their other members to come to my store. They help,” says Elisa. “There are a lot of banks out there, and it’s not that they aren’t friendly, but they don’t know who you are. With the credit union, I get really personalized service.”

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“If other businesses are doing well, you’re going to do well, too,” shares Elisa. “Maybe someone is going out to get a tattoo and they see the hair salon. During their haircut, they realize it’s their mom’s birthday tomorrow and the hairdresser tells them about that gift shop down the street. If one of those businesses closes down, that snowball effect doesn’t happen. Everybody has to do well or nobody does.”



During uncertain times like the changes caused by the efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, doing things like banking in-person can be challenging. “Not even a month ago, there was another member in the branch that’s been having a hard time. They don’t come out of their house much. The second they walked in, one of the girls from the back came around the corner, sat them down, and said, ‘We’ll do your banking over here, away from everybody else.’ You could see the relief on their face,” tells Elisa. “It’s just that community spirit.”


After a car drove through her storefront in mid-August, Elisa learned just how personalized the service was at her local branch.

“Unfortunately, I had three cars hit my old building over the past four years. The last one was really bad,” explains Elisa. “News reached down the street pretty darn quick, and I heard it was all they could do to keep the staff in the branch from not locking the doors and running to help me.”

500 hours later, she reopened just down the street. Connect First Credit Union was there to keep her business moving, and we want to be there for you. Connect First helps to make money make a difference.

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