Want to know what makes me happy? It’s talking to craft gallery owners, who as a group seem to be some of the most upbeat, optimistic and forward-looking small business retailers on the face of the earth.
They’re doing what they love, working with creative people, connecting artists and collectors through beautiful things, and bringing more than good measures of satisfaction to everyone concerned.
Yes, they’re aware that business these days isn’t what it was, or could be. And no, they’re not just simply in denial. They’re coping with the same stresses and strains that a weak economy has brought to all Americans, whether business people or not. Yet when they look at the proverbial water glass, it’s always at least half full.
If this is starting to sound like a love letter to craft retailers, you’re right. I am especially in awe of the long-timers, the ones who’ve weathered not one but multiple recessions, hired a long succession of (sometimes successful and sometime not) employees, juggled child-raising and spousal needs and health issues on parallel or crisscrossing tracks for 10, 20, 30, even 40 years, yet still speak passionately about their shops, their artists, their customers and their staffs.
What does it take to go the distance? That’s the question freelance writer Vanessa Mallory Kotz posed to four gallery owners across the country for an article in this issue on long-term success. Each has just celebrated major anniversaries—10 years for Mary Bonney, of the William & Joseph Gallery in Santa Fe; 20 for Sandra Randolph, of Good Goods in Saugatuck, Mich.; 30 for Don and Cindy Hoskins, with two galleries in two separate locations northwest of Seattle in Washington state; and 40 for Audrey Parent, who started a single Left Bank Gallery in her hometown of Wellfleet, Mass., and now runs three—and they can all definitely speak from experience.
In some ways, their stories are similar; in others, unique. What binds them is self-confidence, engaging personalities, a clear vision for their businesses, and an almost complete inability to even think about calling it quits.
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Now this, from the Department of Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: We’re giving an encouraging two thumbs up to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for making good on its promise to replace all foreign-made merchandise in its Price of Freedom store with 100 percent American-made products by July 4. When the shop reopened for business on June 8, museum director Brent D. Glass personally escorted U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont through the retail space, and the senator, who first called attention to the issue of U.S versus foreign-made gifts in Smithsonian shops earlier this year, pronounced himself pleased with the transformation. He even bought a patriotic T-shirt: “Made in North Carolina,” he chuckled.
It’s a start. Now we need to keep the momentum (and the pressure) going.