The Merchants of Lenox: 69 Church Street
By Nichole Dupont
On a frigid Saturday, nothing was keeping the shoppers away. Ghost town be damned. And while many were certainly on the hunt for traditional gift items, they were delighted to find fine art nudes, bright, cozy blankets and high-end jodhpurs in the mix. The “complex” at 69 Church Street in Lenox is the new hotspot for entrepreneurs who want to make big things happen and who aren’t afraid to do business a little differently. Although the cluster of new storefronts in old buildings — this is New England, after all — is somewhat distanced from the hub of the town wheel so to speak, these women-owned businesses seem to be taking the lead in moving the town into the trending horizon.
Doris Barsauskas is a dominant voice in the town’s emerging merchants collective (some 22 strong). She is a recent transplant from Marblehead and the owner of MacKimmie Company, a more traditional retail shop specializing in textiles. It’s an ideal space to warm up in. Luxurious blankets and throws — some cotton, some wool, some tartan, some bright — fill every inch of the store. The soft loungewear and very un-New England vibrancy are a perfect antidote to the frigid season. And the pricing is reasonable, ranging from $33 for cotton runners from Dash & Albert to $195 for plush, I-should-be-snuggling-with-Gerard-Butler wool throws.
Like MacKimmie Co., Willowbrook Home is a traditional retail space, but with an almost dizzying array of very high-end pieces for the home, the table and the closet. Owner Allison Crane is at the head of a triumvirate — Allison Crane Interiors, Places + Spaces Staging, Willowbrook Estates. The store speaks to that interior obsession, and every nook could be a magazine spread. Crane carries coveted brands such as Match Italian pewter ware, Simon Pearce glassware, cashmere clothing for adults and babies (including deadly-soft socks) as well locally crafted jewelry and gifts by Beth Carlisle (Lapis and Lime) and Dan Burkhardt.
Refined local talent also informs the Sohn Fine Art Gallery, formerly located at Elm Street in Stockbridge. The new gallery is twice the size of its former self and is an oasis of sorts amidst the busy retail interiors of the complex.
Owner/photographer Cassandra Sohn has curated a gorgeous space with honey-toned wood floors, plenty of light and white walls. Works by several artists, equal parts local and international, hang intentionally in the angled space. The star-studded — Michael Jackson, Iman, Brad Pitt — black and white photos by Greg Gorman (giclee prints, $2,000-$10,000) face opposite the large digital compositions of flowers and old postcards by local designer Kevin Sprague (24"x36”, $395). Haunting photographic collages by Fran Forman depict otherworldly children with butterfly wings (giclee prints, $1,000-$3,000) while architectural images of the Brooklyn Bridge and the London Eye by Amiel Gervers transport viewers from country whimsy to harder places (giclee prints, $75-$550). The gallery also offers printing and framing and is host to several photography workshops and an annual community art exhibit.
The showcase of goods at 69 Church is also a showcase of talents and unique services. The Berkshire School of Etiquette, founded by Diane Massey, offers an array of classes and experiences. Kids can learn the finer art of the five course dinner (including making eye contact) while adults can hone their networking and interview skills in a private or group setting.
You can practice the art of good manners at your next function. How about a soup-to-nuts wedding offered by the Berkshire Wedding Collective, a concierge service for all things nuptial? Founded by local marketing guru Tara Consolati, BWC covers everything from photography — Tricia McCormack has office space there — to spa days to restroom trailers. Consolati is also the Corporate Events consultant for efd Creative (located at 69 and also on Newbury Street in Boston), an event planning company that organizes weddings, anniversaries, reunions, corporate events and birthday bashes (see Nicholas’ Birthday bash in their gallery, I want to be that kid!).
Lenox businesses are making headway, and according to Barsauskas, hopefully burying the “myth” that the only season is the summer season. She may be right.