News & Views
Photo of Sandwich Village by Joe Janis
In this year of Covid, SBG is not undertaking many of our previous initiatives, such as a marketing brochure. Instead, we want to promote our members and the Sandwich business community in new ways. Meet Our Members will be a recurring feature in which we learn more about the Sandwich folk engaged in local businesses and nonprofit organizations. These will be stories about our friends and neighbors, as well as their businesses.
What is your name and the name of your business/organization?
Martha Nichols, Gallery Manager of The Sandwich Home Industries; aka League of NH Craftsmen Center Sandwich Gallery
How did you get to Sandwich, NH?
I have lived in Sandwich for 37 years! Before moving here in the early 1980s, I came to Sandwich as a child because my grandparents loved visiting the lakes and mountains of NH when they were young adults. They brought their family and rented a cottage on the lake and my parents continued that tradition every summer of my childhood. When my aunt and uncle bought an old farm in Sandwich in the 50s, I became a regular visitor to Sandwich.
What got you started in this job?
The manager job sort of fell into my lap when a friend told me about it. I had taken early retirement from teaching high school and was looking for a new adventure.
Tell us about the Sandwich Home Industries.
The Sandwich Home Industries is a non-profit organization supporting local artists and the local economy by providing a welcoming gallery and educational programs for area residents and visitors to Center Sandwich. The gallery sells a wide selection of fine hand-crafted items, and offers classes in arts and crafts. Our gallery stocks traditional and contemporary fine crafts made by juried members of the League of NH Craftsmen. Our Education Program is the cornerstone of our mission – we create a varied curriculum for both adults and children.
How did the Sandwich Home Industries get started?
The Sandwich Home Industries (SHI) has a rich history of supporting the craft economy of Sandwich. The Industries began in 1926 when Mrs. J. Randolph Coolidge and a committee of local Sandwich women organized an exhibition of locally made rugs and brought an expert from Boston to give a talk on the practical aspects of making and marketing rugs. From this experience the committee decided to form a cooperative venture. The Sandwich Home Industries opened in the summer of 1926 selling locally made handicrafts to support the local economy.
It was such a success that, a few years later, Mrs. Coolidge went to the Governor of NH to request a state-wide arts and crafts organization. In 1931, NH Governor John Winant supported their idea, establishing and funding the NH Commission of Arts and Crafts. As a result, the League of NH Craftsmen was formed in 1932 with Mary Coolidge as their President.
The League of NH Craftsmen has become one of the oldest and most recognized craft organizations in the country with seven galleries located throughout the state. For over 88 years, the nonprofit League has promoted fine craft, supported craftspeople, and educated and enriched New Hampshire’s communities.
What is the most fun/satisfying aspect of your job?
The manager job allows me to use skills I acquired in my career as a teacher. I find it most satisfying to collaborate with creative people, so setting up the gallery each season is quite fun. I am interested in Feng Shui and enjoy arranging the gallery so that it not only looks beautiful, but has the positive feel and flow of energy throughout. It is most satisfying to observe customers’ reactions when they visit the gallery. I also enjoy learning more about the many aspects of marketing and social media, which has been new to me!
What is the hardest?
The hardest part is schlepping inventory from League Headquarters! Many artists deliver their work to us (we take most work on consignment), but we will also pick up merchandise in Concord.
What has happened to your business in this last Covid year?
The beginning of the pandemic was nervewracking. We (the Board of Directors and myself) had no idea if it would be safe to open or if people would want to come out to shop. Ordinarily, we open mid-May, but we were in lockdown, so we waited to see what the State would decide. When we were able, we decided to open on a limited basis last year, which meant 3 days/week. We laid off staff and reduced my hours. We applied for the government grants and were able to stay afloat, thankfully.
I was surprised at the number of people who came by to shop last summer. They were happy and thankful that we were open. Of course, we practiced safety measures recommended by the State, and the season progressed smoothly. This season, we are planning on opening mid-May with our usual 7-day schedule. We are also planning our 2021 education program.
How do you see the future for this business?
The brick and mortar retail business is challenging these days since one can buy almost anything on the internet. SHI has even started selling some inventory through the League Galleries Webstore. However, I believe that seeing fine craft in person at our historic gallery and being able to touch it and pick it up as well as imagine it in your own space is critical.
Our town, in the summer particularly, is a tourist destination. People enjoy stopping by and finding that special NH-made gift or item for their home. It is best to experience art with the senses and one can’t get that while online shopping.
What else can you tell us about yourself and your business?
We have amazing talent and dedication on our Board of SHI Directors and are working on strategic planning for the future. We maintain the historic character of the building while making necessary repairs and updating displays. Collaboration with local businesses is also important to us. Last summer we held an Artists on the Porch series where we invited local crafters to sell their work. We are always looking for new ways to engage our community and would love to hear more ideas from Sandwich folks.
I am looking forward to Spring and starting our annual opening process. This year marks our 95th season and we are working to keep SHI going strong through its 100th Anniversary and beyond.
Martha Nichols, Gallery Manager
League of NH Craftsmen Center Sandwich Fine Craft Gallery
PO Box 164, 32 Main Street
Center Sandwich, NH 03227
Open mid-May to mid-October
Shop our gallery online!!
Betty J Parker
3/10/2021 08:07:42 am
Truly enjoyed the article. I loved the old photographs.
Comments are closed.
News & Views
News of what's happening in Sandwich and other items of interest.
Meet Our Members
Please enjoy the Sandwich Business Group's 2021 project called Meet Our Members. Read interviews with fascinating people who live here and run businesses, organizations, and engage in other creative pursuits.
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