When we sadly made the announcement in November that Walker Metalsmiths would be closing our Fairport store people started talking to us about it in several ways.
For those who are disappointed, we are sorry. We made some great relationships and really loved the space and community. Our decision to leave was made reluctantly. We want to emphasize that we are not going out of business, just leaving Fairport.
Many have assumed that we had to close for economic reasons. The store had been paying its bills since we moved to Fairport in 2009 and slowly but steadily increasing sales through the six years we were open. The real reason was the demands of time. Our adult children started the Rochester area shop, first Andrew in Park Avenue and the Jeanne in Fairport. They have moved on to other things several years ago and started their own families. While Sue and I are in no hurry to retire, we do want to have more time for travel to visit our children and grandchildren. Bringing all of our sales, mail-order, internet and over the counter, back to the original Andover location is a big step towards this priority.
We have had a number of conversations with people who have suggestions for other places we might move the Fairport store. The answer to these has been that we want things more settled and simplified. Branching out is the opposite of the path we have chosen. If we were to continue a second store we are very happy to leave it in Fairport.
A brief history of our business, if you wish to read further:
I began making jewelry and Celtic accessories when I was very young, still at Andover Central School in the 1970s. After a year in the British Isles from 1975 to 1976, I went to art school for metals and jewelry, first to Syracuse University and then to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Sue and I were married in 1981 and immediately began having children. After working for another craftsman for a year and a half I returned to Andover, NY and began working full time for myself in 1984.
For the first ten years my sales were mostly through arts festivals. In 1983 I exhibited at the Clothesline Festival in Rochester with enough success to quit my day job. From there on festivals were as far afield as Florida, Wisconsin and California. In the early 1990s we began advertising Celtic rings in national magazines, most notably Smithsonian Magazine. This rapidly built up a mail order business that eventually shifted to an internet business. This still makes up the largest portion of our sales. About this same time we bought the building at One Main Street in Andover as a workshop, adding a showroom in 1997.
Beginning in the 1990s we began making annual trips to Ireland and Scotland to stock our cases with Celtic jewelry and crafts from other complimentary artisans. This lead to some great friendships with kindred spirits like Aidan Breen in Ireland and Russell Caldwell in Scotland. These trips were also opportunities to study many of the medieval masterpieces of Celtic art at the museums.
In 2007, our son Andrew started a second retail location of the family business at the corner of Meigs and Park Avenue in Rochester. In March of 2008 we offered an exhibit of Celtic Cross art in observance of Saint Patrick’s Day falling in the same week as Easter. After two years Andrew decided that retail wasn’t for him and his sister Jeanne moved the shop to the Village of Fairport on the historic Erie Canal. Aidan Breen made an appearance as a guest artist for our opening in Fairport during Canal Days in 2009. Jeanne fell in love, got married and after two years followed her husband to an academic job in California.
We were very fortunate that before Jeanne left she recruited an enthusiastic customer, Susanna, to take over as manager of the Fairport store. During this time we hosted the American Celtic Art Exhibition in 2012 and the Modern History of Celtic Jewelry Exhibition in 2013. After four years Susanna chose to stay at home with her infant son Ronan, passing the reins to Jesse and Kelsey.
In Andover we are expanding our showroom. In March we will exhibit a revised version of the 2013 Modern History of Celtic Jewelry Exhibit. Apprentice Abram will be leaving to join Americorps in February, Lyndsay, Lindsey and Steve continue to craft new and old designs in gold and silver with Sue, Jesse and Susette taking care of our customers by phone, online and in our Main Street showroom.
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August 1st marks Lughnasadh. This festival signifies the ending of summer and the beginning of fall, a the start of the harvest season. And just as Lughnasadh has been celebrated for centuries, the symbols used in our handcrafted Celtic jewelry here at Walker Metalsmiths have also been part of Celtic history since ancient times.