Leave it to people in creative arts businesses to get creative when they have to close their stores.
“When we had to close in March, we wondered what we had to do to stay afloat,” said Angelina Valente, owner with her mother Anne Valente of Creative Sparks in Saratoga Springs. “We saw that some businesses were offering kits online and that it made sense.”
The store, which the Valentes have owned for 15 years, offers people the opportunity to paint pottery such as mugs, vases, bowls or even light fixtures that the store will then fire.
“Before all this happened, we had all kinds of parties, wedding showers, walk-ins to do whatever they wanted. Then with the virus we had to disinfect. It affected the business in a big way. But we started the kits a little to-go in May for curbside. Then by summer we began a few in-store classes,” Valente said. “But we decided the classes were like Russian roulette and stopped those. But the kits were a great thing for everyone and proved very popular. They were very cool.”
People can choose from a wide range of objects from figurines, ornaments, piggy banks, all sorts of dishware and vases. The kits cost $15 and come with five bottles of paint, enough for two pieces. Once finished, the store fires them. The Valentes have since expanded the kit offerings to include mosaics, which include a form, little pieces of glass and require grout to attach them.
“They use a different side of the brain,” Valente said.
Nowadays, whole families have bought kits or sometimes one person comes looking for something to do because they’re going crazy and just want to get creative.
“It’s so cool people want to get creative again,” Valente said.
Check out the offerings at www.creativesparksarts.com or call 518 583-2030.
Heather Hiegl, the owner of Paint-n-Gogh in Ballston Spa, also discovered kits.
“I’ve been in business for two years and closed in March. I started the kits to pay the rent.”
Her business focuses on giving people — many of whom have never painted — a chance to paint a stretched canvas of a picture that Hiegl has sketched. In the past, groups of children or adults gathered in classes. Once Hiegl closed, however, she offered button kits mostly for kids, which had a painted picture that kids would stick buttons on, such as a tree, and the buttons were the leaves.
“They were a real hit. I could barely keep up with the orders,” Hiegl said.
After a few months she added step-by-step painting kits that come with the stretched, sketched canvas and paint, and kits to paint wine bottles that come with the bottle, special glass paint and a fairy light cork with batteries that light the bottle from the inside.
In August, after getting a small business loan, Hiegl re-opened for small in-house classes of no more than eight people that she runs from Thursday through Sunday.
“Usually it’s no more than four people and they come as a group. I have four tables all six feet apart,” she said. “They must register online before-hand and must wear masks.”
But the kits are still a big seller, all coming with various prices.
“At Christmas I had burlap wreaths but people are now clamoring for more crafts,” she said laughing. “I’m always trying to come up with new ideas. And I’m still at only 25 percent capacity. I would love to have more people in class but….”
Check her kits at www.paintngoghbspa.com or call 518 879-6869.
Kate Fryer, the owner of A Bead Just So in Ballston Spa, didn’t wait to be told she had to close in March; she began offering kits.
“It was a new venture,” she said. “I already had three patterns I’d designed to go with beads, so I took pictures of the finished products and posted them online.”
The response was good enough that she began designing more, such as bracelets, necklaces, anklets, ornaments, bookmarks, and pins. Now she has 25 patterns and “tons of kids’ kits that are all new.” All of them come with beads, all necessary materials and step-by-step instructions. Special flat-nosed pliers are a separate purchase. Recently, Fryer has begun a YouTube tutorial on basic beading that is project specific.
Offering kits is a far cry from what has been typical. As one of the few bead stores in the Capital Region, she offers thousands of different kinds of beads including Japanese seed beads, natural stone, checked glass, and Chinese crystal along with all the fixtures, findings, tools for making jewelry, and gift items like soaps and candles, calling her store more “a small gifting boutique,” she said.
It has been a mecca for beaders, who also could attend a wide number of in-store classes, get their jewelry repaired or just stop by and make their own creation. Now there are no such classes and only five people at one time can be in the store.
Fryer remains optimistic and continues to write new patterns for her kits, which she said can be shipped, delivered curbside or picked up. Check www.abeadjustso.com or call 518 309-4070.
Knitters and crocheters, however, have been in the forefront these days as they always are looking for another project. That’s one reason Nancy Cobb, one of the six owners at the Spinning Room in Altamont, don’t fret too much.
“We’re still having social knitting Tuesdays and Sundays online on Zoom with from five to twenty people showing up,” Cobb said. “We also have an online study group monthly on Zoom which is by topic. And we have a Knit A-Long on Zoom of a sweater beginning Feb. 7 with the group meeting 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. We know the designer and know the pattern is a successful pattern and is well written and been tested. It’s been done a zillion times. All this adds some to social connections.”
(The sweater’s pattern can be purchased on www.Ravely.com, which is a social networking website for the fiber arts. The Love Note sweater comes in 14 sizes.)
Contact the store for the code to get on Zoom. The store will email the link.
While the social knitting groups had always met in-store, the store had to close in March.
“So we pivoted and began email orders to ramp up our shipping game,” Cobb said.
That included a virtual fiber tour/show, which inspired the store to begin an ecommerce site, which “was a real pivot,” she said. Also, yarn companies, especially Berroco Yarns in Rhode Island, began offering a free pattern with suggestions as to what yarns to use that the store and other yarn stores, such as Common Thread in Saratoga Springs, offered on the websites.
“They were really pro-active. That was new for them and key to their keeping their employees. We order, they ship. It was a win-win,” she said.
In early June, the store opened for a limited number of customers and discovered that although fewer people were in the store at any one time, many were new faces.
“If you’re binge-watching television at home, you might as well have something to do with your hands,” Cobb said.
Visit at www.spinningroom.net or call 518 861-0038.
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