One of America’s most prized holidays, the fourth Thursday of the month serves as the cornerstone of tradition. Indisputably the most anticipated meal of the year, the annual celebration is equivalently synonymous with ornamented floats, road races, and the inauguration of the holiday season. As feast favorites are divvied into containers and the leftover turkey is earmarked for day-after sandwiches, the shift to shopping is soon to follow.
As glossy circulars from major retailers overwhelm both mailboxes and bank accounts, there’s a welcome reprieve in looking locally to discover homegrown goods outside the madness of mainstream. Far removed from the long lines and crazy crowds, Oh So Pretties Handcrafted Gifts serves not only as a beacon of light for weary shoppers, but also a connection to the region’s most talented artisans. Tucked in the rustic marketplace of the Wilbraham Shops, the store - owned by Sherry Taylor Coulis – is in the business of supporting local entrepreneurs.
Sherry has made a business from pursuing her creative endeavors, a dream realized after opening her doors five years ago this November. She has always been “crafty,” recalling how imaginative coloring as a kid gave way to the pursuit of more passionate projects as an adult. Experimenting with a multitude of mediums, she found a love for fused glass, a technique bonding multiple fragments of glasses together then used to create sculptures, jewelry, dishware, and other beautiful pieces. With an entrepreneurial and energetic spirit, Sherry always wanted to operate her own shop. Lining the shelves with her work and the wares of 12 other local artists, Oh So Pretties opened in 2012 and has aided as a direct connection to creativity for the community ever since.
Opened at a time when the “maker movement” was in its infancy, the shop has flourished from just a dozen to now fifty artisans, creators, and innovators. The space is stocked with authentic local products, nearly all representing an independent studio in close proximity (and the very least within the United States). It’s a platform for artisans to showcase their work while offering a unique collection of handmade pieces filled with integrity. From useful to beautiful the shop is brimming with jewelry, clothing, skincare products, housewares, home décor, seasonal items, art and more. On upcycled and repurposed furniture displays – created by Sherry herself – are uniquely displayed creations unmatched by any mass-produced item.
With a growing collection of artists, Sherry is able to keep things fresh, offering a wide variety of products that rotate from season to season or with the introduction of new products. For example, ALJ Designs (Berkshires) gives new life to vintage wares with meticulously painted abstract patterns while Jacki’s Mosaics (Wilbraham) specializes in housewares adorned with colored glass. Well-known producers like Scentapy (Agawam) and Candle Threads (East Windsor) supply home products while Pat Parker Designs (East Longmeadow) produces hand painted glassware. In between are Sherry’s own creations – dreamcatchers, fused glass pieces and vintage silverware jewelry – are hand stitched leather bags (Emeny Leather), graphic tees and accessories (The Gold Polka Dot Shop), and specialty foods (Crimson Lion). Each pours their heart, soul, and energy into every item produced, and the shop assists handmade good merchants to build and grow their businesses.
“Everyone that was coming into the store was so inspired by the merchandise – knowing it’s handmade – they too wanted to get creative,” says Sherry.
Sherry refers to the “Paint and Sip” classes, the inaugural do-it-yourself workshops that encourage groups of people to discover their inner creativity. In addition to the retail space, Oh So Pretties lends itself to a studio for weekly DIY workshops. Each led by a different artisan, participants are guided through the creativity and production process from start to finish. Sherry and Treena Peltier – the store’s right-hand woman – say the experience serves as a social function while providing instruction and materials to create unique personalized gifts. Nearly every producer showcased on the shelves lends their expertise to instruct, encouraging others to pursue unique artistic experiences – their creativity is contagious.
“We try to offer a mix of different experiences, offering new classes at a beginner level,” explains Treena. “They are a unique opportunity to do something different. We make it easy, laying out all usable parts, pieces, and materials for participants to experiment with.”
“We try to help inspire people to have the confidence to be creative, even those with the most doubt are always surprised with what they can do,” says Sherry. “It’s so gratifying to see people not only be productive, but be fulfilled by discovering their own untapped creativity.”
Recent offerings include paper bead making, silver soldering, Chakra bracelets, boho wall hangings, aromatherapy and glass fusing. With a wide array of classes that run for approximately two hours, each embraces creativity and offers the satisfaction of going home with a completed project.
Over the years Sherry has enjoyed watching the plaza at Wilbraham Shops develop. Looking out her door she says it’s “a wonderful collection,” pointing to several restaurants, a toy store, chocolate shop, bakery, coffee shops and salon. Located on Boston Road, the retail marketplace is the opportunity for one-stop independent retail shopping, all year long. There are a lot of perks to shopping at local businesses owned and operated by people in the community. Customer care is paramount, inventory is unique and serves as an integral part of a community’s distinctive character. While handmade items can be a little more expensive than their box store counterparts, items are fashioned with integrity. Products are built to last and created with a soul, something you can feel knowing each was constructed with one-of-a-kind creative energy.
To celebrate 5 years of small business success, Sherry is hosting an in-store event with the opportunity for customers to meet artisans, enjoy refreshments, listen to music, win prizes and experience new inventory. On Friday, November 10 Sherry’s doors will be open late (5pm-9pm), for an exciting celebration that serves as a rare opportunity to connect with some of the most creative people in our region. All are invited.
As Sherry wraps up a “peace and love” glass fused ornament – a special piece inspired by her granddaughter and a concept that echoes through her store – she leans back to appreciate the last five years. She says the artists, customers, friends, and relationships she’s built over the years is incalculable. She’s honored to be in Wilbraham, offering unique items to customers without the need to travel a long distance. And when you shop here, it not only supports one small business, but fifty high-quality entrepreneurs.
“I love providing a creative outlet within the community and sharing this experience,” says Sherry. “These items are gifts that keep giving, not just for the recipient, but also back to the artist, knowing their creations are well-loved.”