October 23, 2014
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Area artisans promote buying local
DRIFT AWAY: Newport resident Holly Wesman creates driftwood photo frames, jewelry stands, hat holders that can also be used to present seasonal decorations.

“People need to support their local economy because the local economy will support them,” says Maxwell Reid, owner of Maxwell’s Made in America Craft Showcase Featuring Ocean State Artisans. “If you spend $1 in a local store, 75 cents stays in the locality. If you go to a chain store, only 30 cents stays local.”

Dr. Tim Hudyncia, a chiropractor and owner of Nature’s Lather and co-founder of LetsBuyLocal.org, agrees. His handmade soaps and lotions are available at the store.

“We want to help people understand the consequences,” he said.

At Maxwell’s grand opening on Dec. 6, Reid said she got the idea to open the pop-up store, which is located at East Greenwich Marketplace at 1000 Division Road and will stay open until the end of the month, when she was shopping. She became frustrated that a majority of the products were made in China.

She then read an article about a female entrepreneur who bought a pair of shoes, added some paint and opened a temporary store on Federal Hill where she sold them for $200. That’s when she decided to save money to open her own store that sold locally made products.

The craft showcase sells merchandise by 14 Rhode Island artisans, as well as one from Massachusetts. They offer items such as handmade jewelry, paintings, postcards, note cards, ornaments, decorative fabric backed plates, quilts and more.

But her inspiration also came from Ken Duffy, who sells wooden frames and banks with prints inside.

“I saved $800 in one of the banks to help me start this store,” said Reid, a silversmith and member of the Ocean State Artisans. She holds a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Rhode Island.

Of course, her bank bears an American flag. Her pride is twofold, as she not only wants to improve the local economy, but she is a SSgt, United States Air Force, retired.

“I love giving people the opportunity to buy American,” she said.

Other unique items are handmade driftwood displays by Newport resident Holly Wesman. Whether it’s a photo frame, jewelry stand, hat holder, or used to present seasonal decorations, her pieces are one-of-a kind.

In fact, she collects driftwood year round from Newport beaches while walking her dog. While some displays don’t take long to create, others take more than a year.

“I don’t like to manipulate the pieces so sometimes they could be incomplete until I find the right piece to go with it,” she said.

Her artwork is also made from the heart. When her grandmother passed away, her family needed to sell the house. In order to pay respect, Wesman used portions of the porch for her creations, which are priced from $25 to $45.

“I try to put a little bit of myself in each piece,” she said. “If I have a friend who’s selling a house I’ll make something for them. It’s a nice way to hold onto something like that and I think it’s beautiful.”

Louise Pankiewicz of Coventry also has a personal connection to her craft. Her mother of the same name taught her how to sew as a child when she was growing up in Warwick. Now, she designs quilts, placemats and table runners. She finds most of her fabric from local quilt shops, including Quilts and More in Westerly, a store artisans recently opened.

In addition to her items, she also sells her mother’s folded star potholders.

“It’s been a long passion and it’s evolved into a part-time job,” said Pankiewicz, who is semi-retired and worked as a principal in Westerly and North Kingstown schools, as well as spending some time as a teacher’s aid at Holliman and John Wicks Elementary Schools prior to her teaching career. “I sewed my doll clothes and my own clothes as a teenager.”

For Ron Schmitz of Cranston, painting and taking photographs of lighthouses is his main focus. He also makes magnets, postcards and note cards that feature lighthouses. What used to be a hobby evolved into a means of income.

“I’ve been unemployed for three years, got laid off and haven’t been able to find work,” he said. “This is a way to make some money.”

While she wasn’t there to discuss her products, his wife Cathy also sells handcrafted items at the store. She makes “pom people,” or fabric decorative pieces.

Further, jewelry maker Jean Mann, owner of Seed 2 Bead, designs one-of-a-kind handmade necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and watches. She uses gemstones such as turquoise, onyx, and carnelian stones, as well as Murano Glass pendants and Swarovski crystal to create designs.

“I just play around and see what I come up with,” she said.

Hudyncia, along with massage therapist Lea Knepley, are small business owners in Warwick. While he owns Hudyncia Family Chiropractic and his wife, Dr. Shannon Cutts, owns of Nature’s Lather, Knepley owns and operates Knepley Therapeutic Massage-A Healing Arts Wellness Center at 2905-2907 Post Road.

Together, they created LetsBuyLocal.org, a campaign that encourages community consumers to purchase goods made and sold in Central Rhode Island. Encouraged by similar area campaigns, they launched the organization six weeks ago and more than 20 local independent business owners have joined.

“It’s very exciting,” said Hudyncia. “I have every reason to believe that I’ll be able to tell you we have more than 200 members in our business allegiance a year from now.”

For Reid, the goal for 2012 is to continue to lease the store, as she said the owners of the plaza have expressed interest in a permanent residency. She’s considering it because she enjoys the location, as well as being next to Dave’s Marketplace, which buys a lot of local produce. She has two small areas left for artisans.

“They don’t have to stay the whole time,” said Reid. “They just pay for their space.”

Further, she plans on making a catalog of American-made items and has a list of things men have asked for like toiletries, leather accessories, and clothing.

“I’m researching everything I can find that’s made in America starting in Rhode Island, New England and then branching out,” said Reid.

Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts loves the idea of buying local and attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. She thinks the busy plaza is the perfect place for the store.

“People can stop in and get something for the holidays to support a local artist,” said Roberts.

Other area artisans are Bob McVay and his family, who own Box Wine Caddy, LLC., a business founded this year that designs handcrafted oak wine caddies. While their product isn’t sold in the store, it’s available online at http://www.boxwinecaddy.com.

The 17.5-inch caddies are made to sit atop counters or bars and dispense wine through an elevated tap directly into a glass. Moreover, the three-liter plastic bladder inside boxed wines preserves wine longer than bottles, as oxidation occurs when air mixes with wine, damaging it. With the caddy, oxidation is reduced because it squeezes out air as wine is drawn through the tap. Freezer gel packs keep wine chilled and caddies also have a lower compartment that holds a spare bladder.

“We’ve left bladders of wine in the caddies for a couple weeks and it’s still drinkable,” said McVay, a self-proclaimed wine lover who designed the caddy with carpenter Bill Barth. “It’s amazing and that’s really one of the advantages of buying boxed wine.”

Not only is the wine preserved, it eliminates the waste and expense of opening a bottle that may not be consumed quickly.

But McVay didn’t know this until his three sons taught him. After the education, he and his wife Jan, along with their son Dan and his wife Rachael Hughes, started the business when they recognized the value in boxed wines but found cardboard box designs distasteful in appearance.

“It’s an attractive piece of furniture,” said McVay. “They can also be made from cherry, birch and other woods that are suitable for it so people who want to have a caddy that matches their kitchens or whatever they want to serve wine.”

Like the artisans that sell their goods at Maxwell’s, McVay recognizes the value of shopping locally, as Barth sources the oak through various New England lumberyards and handcrafts them in his shop in East Providence. But that’s not the only benefit.

“It’s an environmentally friendly product because it saves on recycling with the aspect of bottles,” McVay said.


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