With the holiday season upon us, our thoughts turn to making new memories, preserving the old, and perhaps handcrafting the perfect keepsake, card, or gift for family and friends. Or maybe this time of year just makes you feel crafty, and you’d like to finally try the Pinterest idea you saw. What better way to express friendship, honor family bonds, and spread joy than by making a gift by hand?
At The Inspiration Station in Stafford, CT. there is no shortage of crafting ideas and supplies to get you started and send you on your merry maker’s adventure. Located within yards of the historic train depot in downtown Stafford, the craft supply store is aptly named, and brims with festive project ideas and a knowledgeable staff.
Once you walk through the doors of the cheerful red, white and yellow Victorian building tucked away on Furnace Avenue, you will enter a veritable hive of activity, creativity, and, as its name implies, inspiration. Not unlike Santa’s Workshop at this time of year, with its impressive array of products arranged on shelves, bright displays, and light-filled workroom where classes and workshops are held, the store is stocked and waiting to help you create! Debby, the owner and friendly proprietress, can easily confirm that impression, bustling from customer to customer dispensing help, tips, craft wisdom, motivation, and helping folks find the perfect product for their holiday projects. Whether you are a seasoned crafter or beginner, all skill levels and ages are respected and honored. Business is conducted with the kind of optimistic, positive enthusiasm one would expect in that hallowed location. In our computer-saturated age it is a comforting change to step into such a welcoming environment, where emphasis is joyfully placed on the handcrafted, the time-honored, and the heartfelt.
Started in 1992, Debby opened her first shop as an antidote to an ever-growing hoard of crafting supplies for her projects, and from the oft-repeated joke from friends and family that “you should open a store you have so many supplies!” Frustration with the difficulty in locating crafting supplies at the time also influenced her decision to open her own store. Back then, online shopping was not available.
Starting out as a bead shop in 2002, her business rapidly grew to include stamping and scrapbooking, and was a resounding success from day one. She outgrew her original location quickly, and realized at that point that crafters and makers wanted a LOT more product! Debby rose to the occasion, moving to a larger space on West Stafford Rd. to accommodate her burgeoning business and popular classes.
Eventually, even this space proved too small, and that’s when she looked at and bought the property that now houses The Inspiration Station - 13 Furnace Ave. When she first laid eyes on the 100 year old building that has been home to her business for 14 years, she had the ability to see the historic structure’s inherent potential. It had room for inventory, classes, and expansion, and was blessed with plenty of easy parking. The shop in its present incarnation has evolved into a primarily paper crafts supplier, with customers coming from far and wide.
One can find everything related to the paper arts, from Zentangle items, specialty markers, papers (oh, the papers!) for every season & occasion, hard to find stamping supplies, stickers, stencils, sparkly papers, cards, pens, inks, how-to books, journals, archival quality items, and so much more. It’s as much a treasure trove for the dedicated crafter as it is for the casual walk-in, with samples of imaginative works displayed around the walls, and inspiration beckoning from every corner. If you are looking to craft something to mark a special occasion, such as a wedding, birth, anniversary, achievement, birthday, or simply to make seasonal projects, there is a class and supplies waiting to meet your needs. Debby loves helping to preserve and pass on cherished memories & life experiences, and is happy to brainstorm about a project or approach. She offers classes in scrapbooking, card making, rubber stamping, art journaling, mixed media collage, and seasonal workshops, with an ever changing roster of instructors and new techniques.
The Inspiration Station has proven to be a local, woman-owned success story, and a small business with staying power- no small feat in our Big Box, fast paced world.
If you ask Debby what her favorite craft or medium is, she’ll reply thoughtfully, “I don’t really have a favorite - I love it all! I love working with color, bottom line!” She will also tell you about how she loves bringing people together and inspiring them. She wishes to provide an experience for people, one where they can walk in, and feel enabled to create. She would like her customers to be able to say, “I can do that!” or “I want to try that!” With her store she has the gratifying ability to provide the supplies, classes, and inspiration for people to go out and craft something on their own.
Typically, from August through December the emphasis in this cozy emporium of the creative is on holiday cards, gifts, and seasonal creations. Most of Debby’s loyal customers are women, empty nesters and retirees from out of town who know they can find just what is needed for various projects. The shop has become somewhat of a destination, with people traveling from all over the state to attend a workshop, class, or shop. On the day we visited, a woman had travelled all the way from East Lyme, proclaiming as she left “Bless your shop!,” clearly exhibiting the kind of relationship-building quality that only a small, local store can foster. And indeed, it’s the very thing Debby values the most about owning her own business, and what makes it so rewarding. Loyal customer testimonials range from “worth the trip from anywhere,” “best scrapbook store in CT!,” “ they always have the newest products,” to “I’m always learning something new when I go there.” It is true that once you visit, you will want to return again and again.
When pressed about what she likes best, she answers unhesitatingly, “The people and my workers...and the camaraderie of other crafters. We laugh when we talk about the universal phenomenon known as the “craft hoarder” or “yarn hoarder” for knitters - they all share one thing, which is the love of a craft, and working with one’s hands.”
She cites local support, and partnering with the community in her list of favorites also. Debby explains how students from St. Edward’s School would come down to work on the art and lettering for their Science and Social Studies fairs. She loved collaborating, inspiring the students to create something on their own, and coming up with design solutions with them. It’s easy to feel at ease, given Debby’s engaging, down to earth, and genuine personality. It’s also easy to see that she sincerely loves her job!
Perhaps that is why her customers return, and forge meaningful bonds of friendship and support with her. The tragic loss of Debby’s beloved son Adam a few years ago brought forth a wave of compassion and concern from customers and townspeople. She thoughtfully remarks that it was all the kindness and care that carried her through an extremely difficult time. Other mothers who had lost a child would stop in to commiserate, grieve, share stories, and comfort her. Her personal tragedy was shared, and she felt the love from countless customers who came to her side during that time.
One can not underestimate the value of a small business, where community-building happens on a daily basis. This holiday season, drop in to The Inspiration Station - you never know what new crafting adventure you might embark upon after visiting, and the creativity train is always ready to roll!