Over its decades-long history, Vermont Artisan Designs has evolved in many ways.
Today, the three-story building on Main Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, represents between 300 and 350 artists.
"It's a museum — except you can purchase everything," says Greg Worden, who has co-owned and operated the store with his wife, Suzy, for 35 years.
The original business, L.J. Serkin & Co., was located at 51 Eliot St. and was founded by Lucy and John Serkin — John was the son of internationally-known classical pianist and co-founder/artist director of Marlboro Music Festival, Rudolf Serkin, and brother of Grammy Award-winning pianist, Peter Serkin.
"Lucy was a weaver," says Worden, and the store specialized in weaving supplies and hand‐weaving by area craftsmen.
Artist Meg Howland purchased the Serkin business and renamed it Vermont Artisan Designs, operating it until the Wordens bought it in 1988. When the couple purchased the company, the store carried art and craft as it does today, as well as yarn and knitting supplies and hosted knitting classes. After the first couple of years under their ownership, Suzy Worden started a kitchen store in the back of the Elliot Street space.
"We would look out the (Elliot Street) window looking this way," notes Greg Worden standing in their store's current location at 106 Main St., which had been Mann's Department Store for 95 years. Next door was a clothing store, and one day the owner was putting up a "For Lease" sign in the window.
"I told him to take the sign down because I wanted (the space)," he says.
They moved the kitchen store in (Kitchen Sync, which specializes in cookbooks, fine linens and kitchen gadgets), and Vermont Artisan Designs moved into its current location by the early 90s. The store in its entirety is 7,000 square feet.
The former department store in the space had rented its upper floor to a local bank, which the Wordens reconfigured into a bath and body shop called Melange. Another local clothing store that ran a tuxedo shop was going out of business, so the Wordens purchased that as well — it is now located on the lower floor, called the Tuxedo Gallery.
"We sell wedding rings and gifts, so (the tuxedos) tied in," notes Worden.
Melange was moved across the street (where there had been a record store); the Wordens later shut its doors because, at that point, there were other such shops in town, and they wanted to focus more on the main aspects of their business.
They moved the art and craft inventory upstairs into the former Melange space, which they named Gallery 2. There they display the juried fine art and craft of local and regional artists, well-established and emerging — 70% of them from Vermont and the rest from around New England.
Together they offer both functional and decorative work, including painting (from landscapes and still life to abstract and multimedia), jewelry, blown glass, pottery, sculpture (in bronze, wood, paper, wire, stone, steel and more), wrought iron, pewter, turned wood, jewelry fiber art, lamps, boxes, clocks, chimes, high-quality furniture and Judaica (including a collection of menorahs) along with other the hard-to-find items. New shows open the first Friday of each month during Gallery Walk.
"We've worked with some of these artists 35 years," says Worden.
Also upstairs in Gallery 2 is Worden's grand piano (don't ask him how he got it to the second floor!), which he can be heard playing from time to time, adding to the ambiance and the shopping experience.
It's all part of the strong appeal of spending time perusing at Vermont Artisan Designs.
"People will come in sometimes for up to two hours," he says, "and there are people who come year after year after year."
Vermont Artisans Designs
106 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301
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