CLINTON — Rachel Bartunek, of Westchester County, has been living in Clinton for about four years and loves the village so much she feels like a local. Well, almost local.
Hence the name of her new gift shop, Almost Local, re-opening officially at 18 W. Park Row on Nov. 6. Yes, reopening as the store was first opened at 4 College St. a few years ago.
“I don’t think many people knew we were there,” Bartunek said.” We were there for about a year, a smaller store. But the problem was a lot of people couldn’t find us. Also, there wasn’t great parking, and as much as I loved that store I wanted to be somewhere people could see us. Besides, I have a lot of stuff and this larger store gives me the room to display it.”
A graphic designer by trade, Bartunek has worked for Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute in Utica and MPW Marketing in Clinton since moving upstate. She’s also not unfamiliar with starting a business because she’s been in business for a few years now.
“I have a business named Handmade Darling-which is a calligraphy-lettering business,” she said. “ I do predominately weddings, but I take on a lot of freelance stuff too.”
Because her business brought people into her home, she received a lot of compliments on her decor. She said she wanted to bring her home to the people who shop in Clinton to see if they liked it too. She classifies her store as “home-goods” style of gift shop. In fact, when you walk in the shop she has a door-mat that says “Welcome Home.”
“There’s nothing in this store I wouldn’t have in my own home,” she said. “In fact, I consider this my home away from home. I hope customers will feel that way and when they take their gifts into their own home.”
Bartunek comes from a family who knows retail. Her family back home have operated antique and card shops for years. So she’s been around it since she was a young girl. She says some of her gifts are in her shop as a result of what her family sold in their shops.
“I love antiques,” she explained. “You can usually find me at an estate sale early Sunday mornings.”
Her gifts include everything from custom made pencils to essentials oils, knitted wear, hand-lettered globes, Upstate, New York T-shirts, coffee mugs and beautiful hand-made signs...and of course she takes custom orders. She said she has gifts for both men and women. Plus, she’s always looking to add different merchandise to her store...as long as she likes it.
We also have a candlemaker who’s making something custom for us,” she added.
“ I want more things for kids and pets,” said Bartunek, as she clutched her little white dog,Tucker closer to her. “We are very pet friendly here. Tucker will be here everyday- greeting everyone who comes through the door.”
Bartunek said some other things that are on the way are knives, from a custom knife maker, an array of leather goods, including some beautiful tote-bags and antique jewelry.
A graduate of Manhattanville College and the Pratt Institute, where she earned her master’s degree, Bartunek is capable and hopes to help people with business needs like logos, business cards, branding packages, social media exposure and advertising. She hopes to meet with potential clients in the store and will be available for consultation.
She’s worked with several area companies including Serene and Evergreen, a knitwear company who market to the urban explorer and wilderness wanderer. Also, Kleigh O Photos wedding photographers. And she does it for a reasonable fee.
“I know what it’s like and there were times, just starting out, I could not afford a $2000 business package,” she said. “I try to work with small businesses and establish the relationship we are working together and can benefit each other.”
She’s also worked with Tailor and the Cook Restaurant, Babe’s Macaroni Grill and even the Utica Comets.
One of Bartuneks own designs is a logo she’s applied to coffee mugs and t-shirts that says “I’d Rather Be Upstate.”
Also, on November 13 she will be holding a Brush Pen Lettering Workshop beginning at 6 p.m..
Bartunek said her vision for her new location is simple, she hopes to be one of a kind.
“I want us to be the kind of place where people go,” she said “ The place they go when they’re looking for something special, something more than a commercial store can offer, something different, fresh...something unique.”
Almost Local will be holding a “Grand Re-Opening” on November 6. Beginning at 8 a.m. with a Clinton Chamber of Commerce breakfast, followed by a ribbon cutting at 8:30. Normal business hours will be Tuesday-Friday 11-6, Saturday 11-5.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Jackie Walters, welcomed the relocation of Almost Local and praised Bartunek as valued contributor to the community.
“The Clinton Chamber of Commerce is excited Almost Local is expanding and staying in the village.” Walters said. “Rachel Bartunek, owner of Almost Local has become and integral part of the Clinton Chamber and community. Rachel serves as secretary on the Clinton Chamber Board and is chairperson of the Annual Clinton Art & Music Festival. We believe in developing and connecting the businesses and community. We wish the best of luck to Rachel and Almost Local. Join us in supporting local!”
For more information on Almost local check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/almostlocalCLN/ or call 315-925-7162 and talk to Bartunek personally. She and Tucker will be there to answer your questions.
Bartunek said as the Utica chapter leader for the Rising Tide Society, a group of small business owners who support each other, the effort and educational value of entrepreneurship, she believes in the group’s philosophy and how it fits into the fabric of her continuing venture.
“It’s all about community over competition,” she said.