February 26—Merideth Young doesn’t do much self-promotion.
“I’m just not good at it,” she said. “I prefer to let things happen organically.”
Young realizes that her approach is contrary to most other business models, but she’s okay with it. She said there’s something special about watching customers stumble upon Young at Art, the Lewisburg art emporium she opened in September 2020.
“It’s kind of like a little gem in the sea of everything else,” she said of her shop.
The Monroe County artist had long been familiar with the East Washington Street space when she decided to make it her own.
This is where she and other local artisans had joined forces to create the West Virginia Fine Artisans Gallery four years earlier.
The gallery closed in early 2020, however, as a number of its members, including Young, had withdrawn due to time constraints or personal reasons.
That’s when Young, a painter who primarily focuses on creating wall art and jewelry, decided to give it a shot.
“I was working from home and my art kind of took care of everything,” she said. “I needed a bigger space.”
It wasn’t just a bigger workspace that Young was looking for. She said she had long dreamed of opening her business – a space a bit more inclusive than a typical gallery.
Young is careful to describe his business.
“A lot of times when you hear the word ‘gallery,’ it’s a red flag that it’s going to be expensive,” she said. “I wanted to break that cycle.”
So she filled the space with items for all ages and budgets.
Unique oil and acrylic paintings decorate the walls of Young at Art.
Young’s own work as well as jewelry, pottery, tapestry, mixed media, and other creations by fellow West Virginia artisans are scattered throughout.
Young has also curated the work of a variety of foreign artists she has encountered on her travels with her own art, as well as an eclectic mix of fair trade items from places as far afield as Australia. Asia.
“I want people to know that fair trade exists and that there are people in Vietnam and elsewhere making these pieces,” she said.
Still, while she thinks it’s important to showcase the work of her fellow artisans, many of whom have no other outlet for their creations, Young said she knows these items might not always appeal. to younger customers.
In creating the children’s section of Young at Art, Young was inspired by her own early childhood shopping experiences at her favorite store in Salem, NH
“My mom gave me $5 and told me to get whatever I wanted,” she explained. “They had all these bins in there, and all these years later I remember sifting through them.”
Although she is often accompanied by adults browsing a different section of the store, 40% of her business comes from little hands sifting through bins of pens, buttons and rings as she once did, said Young.
“A little girl comes in, she’s tiny, and she always has a purse,” Young said with a smile.
“She has money and she takes her little notebooks and her little $1 pens and comes to the counter and pays for it.”
And while children may enter the store for different reasons, Young said they often stare in awe at the bigger picture.
“They come for these little things, but they are exposed to so much more,” she said. “And if they have any questions, I can explain to them and help open their eyes to the fine arts.”
She said she and the other local artisans who work in the shop are always available to answer questions and help visitors of all ages.
But his philosophy on customer service is very similar to his thoughts on promotion.
“I really want customers to have their own safe space,” she said. “I like to be left alone when I shop, so I leave them (customers) alone. I don’t want to bombard them like, ‘Hey, you need to watch this!’ who come in and I let them watch.”
—- Although Young said it was a bit daunting to open a new business during the early days of a pandemic, she says it has been successful so far.
“People are coming,” she said. “It’s been a steady stream.”
She said she hopes this continues because she thinks it’s important for customers to have shopping opportunities beyond the internet.
“I’m old school,” she said. “I want to see things (in person), hear them and touch them.
“I want to offer this space to people.”
And while she may not have gone the traditional “gallery” route, she said she was happy with what she had created.
“There’s a hodgepodge of things you use, things you admire, and things you get as gifts,” she said. “It’s a complete one-stop shop with everything from a dollar to $10,000.”
It’s this variety – although not advertised – that Young says draws people in.
“I really like it when people come up and say, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know this was here,'” she said. “Even if they don’t buy anything, they remember it and they come back.”
—-Young at Art, located at 1042 E. Washington St. in Lewisburg, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.