CLINTON — Artisans’ Corner Gifts (pronounced ART-TI-SANS) on the corner of College and Williams Streets in Clinton is not your average gift shop.
First of all, the age-old building served as H.J. Allen & Sons Hardware Dealers, established in 1884, for over 100 years, closing in 1986, John (Jack) Ballard Allen, the grandson of H.J. Allen proprietor at the time. Allen, the grandson, passed away in 2018.
“I used to come down here to this hardware store as a kid with my dad,” said Tim Pryputniewicz, a long-time Clinton resident and artist who is one of the founders of the store as it is today.
Secondly, in 1994 the building became home to McHarris Gifts’ Clinton location. McHarris Gifts originally founded in 1956 by Joseph and Ida McHarris, of Utica. The McHarris’ had several other shops already established in Utica and New Hartford, and over the years had slowly closed them, leaving the Clinton shop as the last remaining store. For 16 years the Clinton store served the community until it’s closing in September of 2009. At that time owner Linda McHarris, who’s husband, Joe, the grandson of Joseph and Ida, was asked what would become of the building once the store closed.
“We’re looking for someone to pick up where we left off,” she said. “We want something to come in that will be beneficial to the community.”
And that’s exactly what they found.
A group of local artists who made their living off the art they created were approached by McHarris about a possible co-op store they could put their work in and then take turns working in the store to keep it open.
“We always had at least a couple of local artists featured in McHarris Gifts,” McHarris said. “Not a lot; just a couple things. We always tried to source things when we were buying for our store that were made in America, and there wasn’t very much out there. At the same time we started getting more and more people inquiring about putting their stuff in our store. They went so far as to ask if they could rent space.”
But McHarris said she felt it would be really hard for them to do that so she and her husband decided to go all in.
“We sought out artists to come in knowing it would be an opportunity for them as well as an opportunity for us,” she said.
Pryputniewicz, a watercolor, pen and ink sketch artist, along with his late business partner, jeweler and owner of Bejeweled on Williams Street, Bethany Flagg, were two of the artists the McHarris’ approached.
“They (McHarris’) decided they were going to sell the business,” Pryputniewicz said. “They had in their minds the same thing as us opening a type of store like this with multiple artisans who could help pay the rent and run the business.”
Because Pryputniewicz and Flagg, plus other artists like Peggy Hadcock, of Little Falls, who makes homemade jams and candies and considers herself a “culinary artist,” all knew each other from arts and crafts shows said recruiting others to come in with them was an easy sell.
“Count me in,” is what they said,” according to Pryputniewicz.
Beginning with 26 artists they opened in November of 2010 and all agreed to work one day a month with McHarris’ overseeing the operation. Today the artists list has grown to 32.
The range of gifts are eclectic, but Pryputniewicz said that’s the uniqueness of the shop. Artist Jean Card and Dennis DeStefanus are potters, Photographer Tim Carey, of New York Mills, offers framed and matted black and white photo prints of local establishments and other work. Nicole Becker produces sterling silver and copper jewelry, as does Claudia Shandler, silver and precious stones to her work. Marci Rollinger is a glass artist.
Pryputniewicz said there are so many advantages to the co-op for everyone.
“Art and craft shows are seasonal in this area,” he said. “Whereas the store is year round. All of us work one day a month and we do everything that’s necessary to keep it running-stocking, cleaning and taking care of the customers.”
Hadcock, one of the original members said ,she got involved because Flagg recruited her. Flagg, a jeweler who owned a store named “Bejeweled” who was Pryputniewicz’s business partner and a huge force as one of the originators behind getting everyone together lost her battle with cancer in 2017 at the age of 50.
“She had a good amount of jewelry made before she passed,” Pryputniewicz said, “Her mom manages her pieces now.”
Pryputniewicz also said it wouldn’t be fair not to mention Donna Hooson, a lampshade and wood carving artist, who also worked right along side he and Flagg putting the co-op together.
Other artists, like Lorrie Beach, from Green N.Y. creates scented soy candles that according to Pryputniewicz are “very popular.”
“The thing that makes these great is there is no smoldering or soot,” he said. “Also, they have about a 50 hour burn time.”
Also, Carol Riley, who’s been with the group since day one makes beautiful fleece wear she entitled “Frosty Days.”Pryputniewicz described these items as “movers.”
The display of the store that will surely appeal to all Clintonians is the “Everything Clinton” section. Prints, sketches, carvings and more, all sorts of pieces that represent Clinton and everything the village is known for, including of course, hockey.
With Christmas right around the corner there’s a lot of buzz in the shop, and Shoppers Stroll coming up on November 26 has the artists excited. Hadcock said the benefit to shopping with them is everything is handcrafted all by local artists, and the size of the store, meaning it’s quite large.
Store hours are Monday -Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays 11 a.m -4 p.m. with extended hours until 9 p.m. during Shoppers Stroll.
Unable to mention each and every artist, check out the Artisan’s Corner website at http://artisanscorner.blogspot.com/ to see a list of all the artists, most with their own individual websites. You can call 315-853-1453 where Nancy or any of the other artists will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
So after seeing all this come together with all the artists happy with a place to show and sell their work, not have to bear the cold and wet of the craft shows, and having the ability to show their work all year long, what does McHarris think about her decision with what to do with the store after the closing of their family business?
“It’s a win-win for all of us” she said. “We’re a good team.”
Joe McHarris said as much as the artists and owners appreciate one another, it’s also about the community.
“It’s important to us that the space is used as one the public is going to enjoy,” McHarris said. “That it’s going to be accessible to the public, along with showcasing the artistic talent we have around here.
McHarris also said the store serves a practical solution to a circumstance that might not be possible otherwise.
“Most of the artist’s we have in the store couldn’t hang a shingle on their own,” McHarris added. “But collectively they can do it and that’s important because, again we have some truly talented people in this communtiy. Also, I’d like to think it adds to the quality of a visit to the village.”