Town Manager Chris Whelan’s announcement at a recent selectmen’s meeting that Concord Hand Designs is closing on May 1 has sparked an outpouring of emotion. Loyal customers of the eclectic gift shop on Main Street are dismayed that the mainstay on the Milldam is shutting down, and that owner Toni Sawyer has decided to retire.
“They’re coming in sobbing,” said store Manager Marie Foley, she of the multi-hued hair who sported navy blue bangs on Thursday.
Sawyer started out in Faneuil Hall in a pushcart selling hand-painted ceramic pots 28 years ago. She added to her stock of “anything hand-painted,” and moved first to Newbury Street, eventually landing in Concord at the old J.P. Nourseon Main some 23 years ago before settling into the current location about 11 years ago.
“I liked the size,” said Sawyer, referring to the ample space for displaying gifts, jewelry and housewares for all ages and tastes.
“I always say, ‘Twice around and two visits’ to my customers,” Sawyer advises. From floor to ceiling, the store is a visual feast, with cookware and housewares alongside scarves, ties, earrings, handbags, ornaments, artificial flowers, baby things, and games packed into every nook and cranny.
Service is about as personal as it gets too, with Foley and Sawyer knowing a good many of their customers, and willing to suggest a gift for a friend or family member.
Foley said the closing sale begins March 1. She was considering putting a casket in the window with the “store closing” signs, but thought better of it.
As Sawyer reminisced about her 30-year career in retail, neighbor Paul Denisevich, owner of Helen’s Restaurant a few doors down, popped in to say good luck, and express what most of Concord is feeling: Foley, Sawyer and the store will be sorely missed.
Comella’s pizza shop has filed permits to move from its spot off Walden Street to the Main Street site of Concord Hand Designs.
Sawyer said it’s just time she retired. She plans to spend a couple of weeks chilling at the Cape, then start going to craft shows with her wares. Foley’s “not sure” of her plans, but she used to be in the medical field, so she may head in that direction, perhaps something with hospice, she said.She also wants a little time off.
“I spend more time here than at home,” said Foley, who is active in Concord activities as well as running the store.
“Every night I say ‘Goodnight, see you tomorrow’ to the store,” said the manager, “and every morning I say, ‘Good morning, how was your night?’”
In a town that loves local ownership, Sawyer and Foley say the customers are what make the store a success.
“I’ve had kids come in as babies, who are now shopping for their families,” said Foley. “I tell them to call us ‘auntie.’Concord is fabulous for its loyal customers.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Sawyer. But she is gratified that she is leaving on her own terms. “We aren’t being forced out or anything like that. It’s just time for me to retire.”
In other Concord news: (Be sure to check to make sure that the predicted blizzard doesn't cancel some activities this weekend.)
Weekend Poetry Reading will start the season with two dynamic poets Tanya Larkin and Katie Peterson on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 3 p.m. in the Trustees Room. Open to all. Sponsored by the Friends of the Concord Free Public Library.
Haiku Walk at Great Meadows on Sunday, Feb. 10 from 2-4:30 p.m.. Thoreau Farm shares this upcoming event offered by Cherrie Corey and Brad Bennett.Join naturalist Cherrie Corey and Haiku poet Brad Bennett for a seasonal haiku experience at Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge in Concord. Following a short introduction to the landscape, and the technique of haiku, you will walk in the refuge, deepening your attention, and welcoming its beauty to inspire your writing. Then travel a short distance to Thoreau Farm, the birthplace of Henry David Thoreau, to share poems and warm refreshment with each other. No prior haiku experience necessary. Class limited to 12, ages 17+ Fee: $35.
The selectmen meet on Monday, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. On the agenda, the board will take up a Wine & Malt License for March 2 at Emerson Umbrella from 5 – 11 p.m. for Fundraising Concert Broadway Review; an all alcoholic beverages license for the Concord Chorus Wine Tasting and Silent Auction on March 2 from 7 p.m. – midnight at 300 Baker Ave. The police chief and Board of Health will discuss “firearms and public health.
It isn’t too early to start thinking about February vacation. There will be a week’s worth of daily activities for the children at the Emerson Umbrella. Dates: Feb. 19 – 22.; Ages 4-12. The theme of the week is Visions of the Future. Students will use their imaginations and creativity to explore their hopes and ideas about the future. They can create art such as ceramic buildings or paintings and illustrations of what life will be like on planet Earth 10, 50, or 100 years from now through drawing and painting, 2D and 3D mixed media, ceramics and woodworking. All students will be invited to submit pieces for the art show in April in honor of Earth Day. Registration deadline: Thursday, Feb. 14 at 5 p.m.
The Concord Players present “The Musical Comedy of Murders of 1940” by John Bishop with performances on Feb. 8, 9, 15, 16, 17 (matinee), 22, 23 at 51 Walden St. The play is directed by John Pease and produced by Sandy Armstrong and Corinne Kinsman. Don’t miss this comedy in the Players’ 93rd season. Go here for ticket information.
Fenn School is holding an open house on Sunday, Feb. 10 for the school’s summer programs from 2-4 p.m. The school is at 516 Monument Street.
Concord-Carlisle High School has its annual summer opportunities fair on Monday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in the school library.
At the Concord Museum, check out “A Visit with Abraham Lincoln on Monday, Feb. 18. Steve Wood gives a head-turning performance from 1-2 p.m. Also during vacation week, from Monday through Thursday, Feb. 18-21 from 11:30-3 p.m. the kids can build a mini log cabin, make a stove-pipe hat as they explore the past. And Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23 at the museum, 200 Lexington Road, take in an afternoon of tea for you and your child or grandchild. Bring a favorite teddy or stuffed animal to enjoy. Seatings at 1:30 and 3 p.m..Admission by advance reservation only.Call (978) 369-9763.
If you are able to donate blood, be sure to call the Emerson Hospital Blood Donor Room and schedule a donation. It’s easy and the reward far outstrips the needle. You will save a life! There is free parking at the John Cuming Building, and a snack. Call 978 287 3390. The need is constant.
The Town election is scheduled for March 19 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Town Clerk Anita Tekle also reports that Special Elections are scheduled for April 30 and June 25. Please don’t wait to register to vote if you are 18 or over and live in Concord.
From Feb. 17 - March 17 at the Concord Art Association, 37 Lexington Rd., take in a members juried exhibit of drawing, graphics, mixed media, and photography. Jurors: Kathy Halamka and Natacha Sochat. Reception: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2 to 4 p.m.
Go to a wine tasting and silent auction for the Concord Chorus on Saturday, March 2 at 7 p.m. at 300 Baker Ave. Sponsored by West Concord Wine and Liquors, and our silent auction fundraiser will include light entertainment, refreshments, and samplings of 20-30 wines. The silent auction will include a variety of goods and services to please each guest. $35 per person. Must be 21+ years old to attend.
The Friends of Minute Man National Historic Park is offering two lectures at Bemis Hall at 15 Bedford Rd in Lincoln, Sunday March 10 and Sunday March 17 at 3 pm.The March 10 Lecture will present speaker J.L. Bell who will speak on Washington's Spy Ring. Mr. Bell will discuss the challenges that General Washington faced in gathering intelligence on the British Military in Boston. The talk reveals secrets and names the names! On March 17, Joan Walsh, the director for bird monitoring at Mass Audubon, will look at the results of Mass Audubon's recent State of the Birds of Massachusetts and Breeding Bird Atlas II and discuss the role that our shifting land-use practices have had upon our native bird population.
State Rep. Cory Atkins was named House Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development for the 2013-2014 legislative session. The committee is responsible for considering bills relating to tourism, arts, and culture, and for promoting jobs and economic development through tourism.
“I am delighted about this appointment,” said Atkins. “This is great for the Chelmsford Center for the Arts, the Concord Museum, the Discovery Museums in Acton, and all the other wonderful cultural organizations in the towns I represent.
“My district is home to international tourist destinations including the Old North Bridge, Walden Pond, and Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. Tourism brings visitors who help our economy and create jobs in our communities.”
Betsy Levinson can be reached at email@example.com.