Craft shows canceled, artisans open Chepachet pop-up shop
After craft shows and festivals were canceled due to the pandemic, some artisans decided to open up a pop-up shop. (WJAR){ }

Tucked inside the Glocester Heritage Building in quaint Chepachet, Claudia Hopkins stands proudly in front of a small display of hand-woven baskets.

The muffin basket and salt and pepper holders are big sellers, she told NBC 10 News.

“It’s a hobby, it’s fun,” said Hopkins. “I enjoy doing it.”

Since retiring from work at a nursing home at the end of July, Hopkins said she had thought she would have more time to weave her baskets.

Hopkins typically would spend her Columbus Day weekend manning her booth on 116 at the Scituate Art Festival, smiling and chatting with the thousands of people that passed through any given year.

But the pandemic forced the organizers of the festival to cancel this year.

“And then my other show got canceled and my other show got canceled and I was like oh boy,” said Hopkins.

She’s not alone. Craft festivals across the region were canceled due to the pandemic, leaving artisans with few places to sell their goods.

“Normally I have 37 days of shows a year and I was down to one show day,” said Kim Belleavoine.

Belleavoine paints sun catchers and large glass panels. She also teaches workshops.

But the pandemic led to a dip in business.

“I was trying to ramp up my website and do more online with Etsy, but you still don’t get the same traction when you are at a show and selling that way,” explained Belleavoine.

So Belleavoine and a few other local artisans started talking about ways to be able to still operate their businesses amid COVID-19 regulations.

Belleavoine said one person suggested a pop-up. Belleavoine said they just needed a space.

In came the Glocester Heritage Center, which typically hosts a few events a year, but mostly with a crowd at high-risk for COVID-19.

Since they wouldn’t be able to do their events, they are allowing artisans to set up in the space. The rent? A donation.

The pop-up shop opened its doors in August.

Inside there are displays from 18 different vendors, but only two people man the store at a time so they can allow more customers to browse.

All items have tags so it is clear how much money goes to each artisan at the end of the month.

“We used August to get the kinks out so then we were ready for September, October, November, December,” said Belleavoine. “We just keep doing better and better each time. I’m just so surprised.”

Belleavoine said everyone has been enjoying being able to show off their work.

They also allow a different young artist to have a display each week. The library also used the pop up to sell their flower displays that help with funding.

While Hopkins admitted she was hesitant about the plan, she said it has been fantastic.

Paula Lusignan, of Sunzup Creations, knits hats, scarves and other apparel.

“I don’t think I want to do a craft show again because you get to set up once and you don’t have to be here hours on end,” said Lusignan.

She said she typically starts doing craft shows in the fall, but started with the shop in August and has been selling a lot of items.

The pop-up shop will stay open until December. Belleavoine is also setting up a special holiday pop-up a few doors down for November and December.

The Pop-Up Co-Op Shop is located at 1181 Putnam Pike in Chepachet.

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