From the Studio to the Shop: ANCA’s Annual Buyers Days Show Connects Adirondack Artisans with Local Retailers
Throughout the Adirondacks, cottage industries are thriving. Some people move here to practice a craft, while others take one up as year-round, full time jobs grow scarce.
In Long Lake, for instance, forty of the 711 year-round residents make their living as artisans and craftsmen.
Getting the product to the market, however, can be difficult, and that’s why many craftsmen depend upon the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA).
ANCA was founded in the 1950s to bring new industry to the region. The organization is still doing that, but it’s also assisting people like Peter Shrope, who makes pottery in Rainbow Lake.
His line of ceramics, which he calls Rockware for its glazes made from native stone, was among the products on display at ANCA’s annual Buyer Days, held this year at the Civic Center in Saratoga Springs on March 7 and 8.
“ANCA’s mission is to build the local economy, and artisans are such an important part of that economy,” said ANCA’s communications director Melissa Hart, who organized this year’s show. “We foster collaborative relationships throughout the Adirondack Park, and with this show, we’re fostering connections between producers and retailers.”
The Buyers Days event is a trade show, but a juried one. Only producers of hand crafted or locally sourced products are allowed to exhibit their wares. Owners of gift shops, markets and museum stores typically attend the show every year.
“We invite everyone who wants to get more local products into their shops,” said Hart. “For the shop owners, it’s a chance to meet the producers and learn the stories behind the products. They’re shopping locally, which enables the consumer to shop locally.”
According to Stephanie Ratcliffe, the executive director of the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, local products support eco-tourism.
“People visit the Adirondacks to have an authentic experience, and they want something authentic to take home; they want a piece of the Adirondacks,” Ratcliffe said.
Deb Morris, whose Barkeater Chocolates will be sold at Dave’s Market in Bolton Landing this summer, noted that her customers value the experience of buying a local product almost as much as the product itself.
“I don’t have a shop, but people know they can find me in the commercial kitchen we use in North Creek. I tell people we ship, but they’d rather make a special trip to buy the chocolate themselves,” she said.
Having so many producers in one place, at one time, makes it that much easier to stock his shop with local wares, said Doug Deneen, the owner of Trees, a book and gift shop in Bolton Landing.
“If I went to a typical trade show, I wouldn’t be assured that the products were local. When we bought our shop a few years ago, I didn’t necessarily know who the best local crafts people were, or how to contact them. This show introduced them to me, and allows me to meet new producers,” said Deneen.
Since he started attending the show, Deneen has placed orders for rustic frames and mirrors, soaps, photographs, prints, t-shirts and books.
His best source for books about the Adirondacks is North Country Books, a publisher and distributor whose president, Rob Igoe, was at this year’s show.
“We know from experience that books about the Adirondacks are frequently purchased as souvenirs of the Adirondacks,” said Igoe. “That’s why we’re insulated from competition from e-books and e-readers. You can’t take home an e-book and put it on your coffee table.”
Igoe does worry, though, about the loss of small, independent bookstores, which have suffered from the expansion of on-line retailers and e-books.
“We need new outlets for our books, especially the Adirondack classics that we feel a duty to keep in print. That’s why this show is important,” said Igoe.
Almost all craftsmen now sell their wares through the internet, some more than others.
Barkeater Chocolates’ Deb Morris said 40% of her business now comes through her website.
Others, like rustic artisan Melisa Fox, rely primarily upon shops like Trees, where her twig and birch bark frames and mirrors are sold.
Morris has also embraced social media to get her message out, while Fox prefers the personal contacts made through shows like Buyer Days.
“For a lots of craftsmen, this is the only place where they can show their work,” said Fox. “For us, it’s the perfect fit. All of our material is locally-sourced. I collect the raw product from the woods and recycle it.”
Whatever their differences, both Morris and Fox have at least one thing in common. Both said their businesses grew from a passion for their craft. And it’s passion, when paired with finely honed skills, that makes Adirondack products truly unique.