A little bit of whimsy in Hudson’s downtown
MotherTown Monthly Newspaper
by Christine M. Quirk, Staff Writer
Are you looking for a cheeseboard made from an old wine bottle? How about a tiny vase, especially designed to hold those dandelions and buttercups from your children? Maybe you’re interested in original photographs or canvasses, tub tea for your bath, felt handbags or one-of-a-kind earrings or bracelets.
Welcome to Serendipity, a small bright gift shop offering “jewelry, art and whimsy,” located on Main Street in Hudson.
Owner Lori Burton’s goal for her store is to offer a little bit of something for everyone. She wants people to walk into her store and find the perfect gift — that one thing they didn’t even look for. After all, how can you purposely set out to find a hand-made heart-shaped pin fashioned out of rolled and shellacked fabric?
From teacher to proprietress
Burton came to her store via the classroom — she taught foreign language for 15 years. But in addition to studying education, Burton also has a background in art.
“I’ve always made jewelry,” she said. “The same year I started teaching. I started doing it as a hobby. I have no formal training — not many people can say they are completely self-taught, but I am. I think the ability to put things together, texture and color, is an innate ability, and I think I have that.
Several years ago, Burton said, she brought some of her jewelry into school and sold it all in the teacher’s room. People started telling her she should do craft shows, and in 2000, at Clinton’s first Olde Home Day, she rented a $30 table.
“I was hoping I’d make back my investment,” she said. “I made 40 or 50 pairs of earrings, a few necklaces and a few bracelets, and I sold it all. I walked away with $350 and thought, ‘there’s a future in this.’”
Burton also used the events to network — her mother would watch her table for an hour while Burton did some scouting. In fact, the first artist she knew she wanted to sell, other than her own, was a glass blower whom she’d met at one of those events.
“I’d walk around and take business cards and tell people, ‘someday I’m going to have a store and I want your stuff in it,’” she said.
And someday came. Burton grew tired of lugging all her jewelry and supplies to shows and that, coupled with the changes in her teaching schedule, led her to say, “I need to have a store.”
A shopper’s shop
Burton’s philosophy for her store’s design and inventory was simple — she created a place that she, herself, would find appealing.
“People who own shops are people who love to shop, and I love to shop,” she said. “The store had to be a place where I would shop.”
With a home equity loan and her husband’s blessing, Burton started looking at real estate. “I kept saying, ‘I think I can do this for less than $20,000 if I can find the right space,’” she said. “People think it’s a huge investment to open your own business, and it was — but I opened this store for less than $15,000. I’m so proud of that.”
“I painted the shop yellow because I love yellow,” she said. “I wanted a nice display case so I got one and had it customized to how I wanted it.”
Burton also put shelving in the windows and hung up the art for sale on the walls. She created a play space in the back, a small area full of toys and books and art supplies, where children could hang out while their parents shopped.
“It’s a good thing, especially in mom and pop businesses, to have something that other stores don’t have,” she said. “I had one mother who couldn’t get her kid out.” The location can’t be beat.
“There’s a hair and nails place next door, which is perfect, and the rent was reasonable,” she said. “This was it. It was meant to be.”
The only thing left was the name, and for Burton, who had called herself “Serendipity Designs” at the craft shows, there was only one choice.
“It’s a great word, and what the word means,” she said. “It’s the process of finding something that makes you happy by accident, … It’s when you find out you look better in glasses. It’s when you have to visit an aunt you don’t really care for, then you discover she has a cool new puppy.”
Besides, she admitted, she’s a big John Cusack fan, and “Serendipity” is one of her favorite films.
Who are you fooling?
Serendipity opened for business on April 1, 2005.
“I planned it that way, because I kept saying, ‘I’m such a fool, opening a store in this economic climate,’” Burton said. “But I knew I was meant to do this. When you teach, you are your own boss, and I knew no matter what I was doing to do I would be the decision maker. But it’s an enormous amount of work.”
Burton prides herself on the store’s personal touch: all purchases are gift-wrapped, she said, even if they are not actual gifts. And there’s a social aspect to running a small, one-of-a-kind place she embraces.
“I love the little relationships that are formed in this store between the customers and myself and the customers and each other,” she said.
Burton also offers monthly workshops in jewelry making and beading birthday parties.
“I love the workshops,” she said. “People come in as strangers and leave as friends.”
All the store’s wares are handmade, most of them by local artists and Burton picks — or makes — everything herself.
“I’m very fortunate because I can work here while the store is open; it’s not like I’m a potter and have to worry about the kiln,” she said.
Most of the jewelry is made by Burton herself, though her daughter, age 7, makes the kids’ jewelry she sells.
“She’s been beading since she was 3 and she’s pretty good,” Burton smiled.
She’s also considers works from other artists, as long as they are different from what she does.
“I have to love it,” Burton said. “It has to evoke some kind of emotional joy. I can’t emphasize that enough. I have to love it. It’s also if I think it’s unique and if I think I can sell it. If I wouldn’t buy it for myself, I wouldn’t buy if for here.”
‘Jewelry, art and whimsy’
Serendipity, Burton said, is called “jewelry, art and whimsy” in that order for a reason. The jewelry is the store’s primary focus, with the original art in all mediums coming next, and the whimsy covering everything else.
“I love funky eclectic art that’s fun, functional and hand-made,” she said.
Though Burton hasn’t ruled out a return to teaching one day, she said she always knew she didn’t have it in her to stay in the same position for decades. She also knew she wanted to be surrounded by originality and beauty and be able to be her own boss, to make the business decisions that would affect her store, and create a place that would make her shoppers happy.
“Once I get them in the door,” she smiled, “they will come back.”
And now, perhaps serendipitously, Burton’s dream has come true.