When Deb Twigg got involved in rebuilding Waverly’s downtown district, she went all in. Not content with being a co-founder and helping to run a museum, she bought the former town hall building with a partner, formed a development company and then a marketing business, and established a co-op where local artisans can display and sell their products.
Twigg can usually be found these days at the museum—the Susquehanna River Archaeological Center—or at the Crooked River Artisan Co-Op diagonally across Waverly’s Broad Street in southern New York. Or you might have to track her down at any one of the shops up and down the street, be- cause she’s deeply committed to keeping her fellow entrepreneurs in business and in the know.
“I started the museum about eight years ago and I fell in love with this town,” Twigg said recently. “And what I found was that a museum itself cannot survive in a town that’s imploding. And what needed to happen was this town—and it’s really a beautiful town—just needed to come back. So I worked to bring the museum up, and I watched all these businesses closing, not being able to make it. And I saw this village hall for sale and I realized that this could be an opportunity to invest in the community again.”
The village hall building, at 358 Broad Street, had sat empty for a couple of years. It definitely was showing its age, but Twigg saw in it the potential to further the development of downtown. So she and partner Susan Fogel, also of Waverly, formed Teaoga Development LLC and bought the building. They also created Teaoga Marketing because, as Twigg explained, “part of economic development is marketing.”
As for what to do with the former village hall, Twigg said, “I was looking for something that was creative and fun and would help with the development of downtown, and [an artisan co-op] just seemed like a really good fit. When I reached out to some of the artisans, I realized that this was something that we should give a try. And it’s just been a wonderful thing to be a part of.”
The first two floors of the building were refurbished, and three other small businesses also set up shop there. Twigg now holds court above an antiques dealer in what once was the village courtroom.
The co-op was only six weeks old in mid-November, but Twigg seemed to have no doubt at that point that she had made the right move. Already twenty-one artisans of various creative skills were displaying and selling their works at the shop, along with some antiques dealers.
“I think it’s amazing what we’ve done in six weeks,” Twigg said. “Sales and traffic are above my expectations, and I’m a Type A, so you know I have high expectations.”
Anne Fell of Waverly, whose business is Walnut Lane Baskets, is one of several members of the co-op who earn a higher commission on sales because they donate time helping to run the shop. Fell said she started making baskets as gifts for relatives and occasionally displayed them at crafts fairs, but she had never had a permanent home to showcase her work.
“Mostly I was just making them to give as gifts, but I found out people would actually buy these baskets,” she said. Now, she said, “I like having a permanent place to display my craft, and I like being a part of this.”
Twigg, who is not an artisan herself, said of her members, “We’ve become a family pretty quick. It’s a fun group.”
That family feeling may be especially significant for Kathy Higgins of Athens, another one of the co-op’s crafters. Higgins, whose daughter Maureen died of cancer in 2003 at the age of eighteen, displays what she calls “garden art created from vintage glass pieces,” all done in memory of Maureen, or Mo, through Higgins’ business Garden MoMorials.
She started that business last spring after first creating MoMorial Cards, a personalized memorial card company, in 2006 with daughter Kerry Banik of Barton, New York.
“People had been asking us for some kind of product that they could put either outside in a garden or at a cemetery plot that would be a carryover from the memorial card,” Higgins said. “We started doing memorial plates, and now we do flowers so people can use them to remember a loved one. People love having them in their garden.”
The beautiful and colorful flowers are among the co-op’s most popular items, Twigg said.
Of Crooked River, Higgins said, “This was a good way of having a place to display our wares without having to pay for a full storefront somewhere, and also to support the other artisans in the area. It just appealed to me, the idea of belonging to a co-op and being able to direct people to a place where they could see the items in person and not just in pictures.”
Because Twigg considers marketing to be so important—she’s on the board of Tioga County [New York] Tourism—she gathers her members for a meeting every Wednesday. They discuss promotional ideas, upcoming events in the area, and any suggestions members might have for spreading the word about who they are and what they do. Crooked River (www.crookedrivercoop.com) is open Tuesday through Friday from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
With Christmas and other gift-giving holidays just ahead, Twigg suggested that a handmade item from a local crafter would make “a unique gift experience.”
And, perhaps with the recent election day still on her mind, she added, “When you shop at a place like this, every purchase is a vote in support of your local artisans.”
The Artisans at Crooked River
Framed Photos by Sherry Dulaney; Crafty Cats Designs by Barbara Reeve; Walking Sticks by Randy Keene; Heartfelt Homesteading products and gift baskets by Rhonda Lant; Welcome Carol Lukovich of Pines and Pots (pine needle basketry); Handmade In The Hills by Deb Schildt; George Morris Wood Turnings; Children’s Books and Audio by Tina Field Howe; Garden MoMorials by Kathy Higgins; Bud Lohman Fine Art and Photography; Lily-Therese Custom Designs by Anne Marie Fontana; Designz by Kristina Palmer States; Jewelry by Karly Thornton; Beauty Made Simple Jewelry by Tracy Lewis; Down Home Crafts by Gina Thomas; Beverly Hill Afghans; Nature’s Breath Photography by Connie Miller; Anne Fell Walnut Lane Baskets; Wicked Women Candles by Tanya Smallwood; Janelle Mitros Yukaho River Farm Goat’s Milk Soap; Scentric Bath & Body by Suzanne Storelli