Meridian Industrial

SONNET & SPARROW

2022-07-01 | HOPE TREMBLAY

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When Cynthia West and her daughter McKenzie opened Sonnet & Sparrow in 2019, they knew Easthampton was in the midst of something big, and they were right.

“We chose Easthampton because it is a city uniquely poised for a renaissance, and we wanted to be a part of making that happen. We also knew we’d find likeminded customers and friends who would support our efforts,” said West.

The business owners saw success and opened The Flying Squirrel in the same location last year at 84 Cottage St.

The shops are in the historic building that was once home to the Majestic Theater, now considered the cultural district of Easthampton.

Sonnet & Sparrow is a curated thrift shop offering lifestyle comforts. From clothing to furniture, West offers many unique, high-quality options for her customers that she and her daughter thoughtfully select with more than just fashion in mind.

“As a mission-based business our goal is to do our  part to change the world through reuse, beauty, and a dash of love,” said West. “ Our small shops are welcoming spaces filled with nature, poetry, and conversation, where friends stop in throughout the day to relax and browse. As a mother-daughter team we share a similar aesthetic which provides a cohesive feel to the interiors of both shops.”

West said their goal is to empower customers to slow climate change through the way they choose to spend their money.

“Instead of adding to mass manufacturing and its associated pollution by buying new goods, we provide curated clothing, homewares and art with previous lives that are yet still gorgeous, well made, and well-priced,” she said. “That said, we work to remove the biases people have about used goods by laundering and pressing every item of clothing before it comes into the store, steam cleaning the furniture, and making small repairs such as electrical upgrades, before purchase. Our vignettes encourage customers to imagine the goods in their own spaces, and we encourage people to try items in their spaces before committing. We have a 100% return policy, and offer free delivery within the Valley.”

Finding the products is a bit of an adventure that West and her daughter love.

“We find beautiful, unique clothing across New England with the goal of shopping at small thrift stores where we can form a positive loop: we support stores with a community focus where funds go  owards educational programs for children, the betterment of civic initiatives, etc.,” West said. “We donate, we shop, we support, and we then offer these goods to our customers after a thorough vetting. We select premium clothing from brands that  either cut to order -- meaning they only produce when an order is placed - or those that believe in small batch production (not making literally tons of clothing with the hope that it all sells). We offer a wide range of sizing in women’s clothing, shoes, and boots, and also carry leather bags.”

Sonnet & Sparrow’s fine furniture is most often from southern Connecticut, where the cultural niche is such that homeowners have more disposable income per capita, and redesign their homes frequently. “This opens an opportunity for finely made furniture to make its way to new homes - at a fraction of the cost,” said West.

Sonnet & Sparrow is a thrift boutique and does not offer consignment.

“We aren’t a consignment store because we curate our goods to a specific palette and quality level. We do, however, have a list of local consignment options for our customers wanting to donate in this fashion,” said West.

McKenzie brings her own artistic eye and flair to the store, which helps drive what they offer. McKenzie is a fine art painter with a studio in the Western Avenue Studios mill building in Lowell. She graduated from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Conn. where she was the recipient of the Wardlaw Prize for Excellence in painting. Her representational paintings capture the natural world, objet d'art, and portraiture. While still in high school, her artwork hung in the United States Capitol in Washington, DC and the New Hampshire State House.

She and West both have appreciation for art that they share with customers.

“We feel strongly about the beauty and hope that art brings to the interior lives of all humans. Without art, song, poetry, how would we share our commonality?” said West. “We are so in love with art that it lines the walls of both shops. We especially love showcasing female artists, past and present.”

In addition to art, West is inspired by how she wants to live.

“I was never a thrifter until I became a single mother and the financial pressure of raising two children demanded creativity,” she said. ”One teenager was completely open to thrifting, while the other flatly refused to wear anything used. We made it through those years with the help of family, but those tough times changed the way I viewed how I wanted to live in the world - and how I wanted to spend my money.”

West believes thrifting is on the rise for a variety of reasons.

“As a country, we are finally adopting more sustainable living patterns similar to what our European counterparts have embraced for decades,” she said. “Slow fashion, the movement to hand make clothing or to create in small batches, has drawn our attention to the enormous and shocking waste within the fashion industry, and the pandemic has made it very clear that our priorities could use some shifting.”

West said hard-core thrifters love to hunt for gems, while others prefer that someone else does the backend work. Either way, the end result is beautiful, quality goods well within a modest budget.

“What is most important is that we start with what already exists before we turn to newly made. By sending a message to the manufacturing industry that excess won’t be tolerated, we also allow small, local designers to rise. By beating back the giants we create space for the creatives, not unlike what is happening with entrepreneurs in Easthampton and other small mill towns across New England,” West said.

At Sonnet & Sparrow, trendy thrifty is key.

“We watch trends closely, while eschewing all trends in a way, but what we love is the new term ‘maximalism.’ This movement gives rise to putting loved items back into the home, rather than getting rid of everything. Imagine celebrating with beautiful, creative tablescapes when friends come to dinner, or gathering collections and making defined space for them. Imagine decorating with beloved books and pottery, or creating an entire wall of small and precious fine art,” she said. “In other words, if you love it, keep it!”

In addition to the Wests, shoppers will find Mikey, a beloved sales associate and greeter. “He is an 8-pound rescue Chihuahua who cuts a dashing figure in the front window in his outfit-of-the day and even has his own Instagram page,” said West.

The shop is open year round on weekends; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12-4 p.m.

West said she has always been a writer, interviewing fascinating people for national and regional magazines.

“My favorite interviews were with John Updike and Doris Kearns Goodwin, but I also enjoyed writing about celebrity chefs and athletes because their worlds were so different than mine,” she said. “My sister, Amy Caggiano, and I founded and published a New Hampshire regional art & culture magazine called Monadnock Living where we highlighted over 50 artists in our ten years of publication. We won the New Hampshire Business in the Arts award for our efforts.”

West still enjoys writing but her passion is sharing her aesthetic and encouraging others to find the beauty that already exists in the world.

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