28 Village Square, Bellows Falls, Vt.
Since its founding in 1975 by Mary Hepburn, the River Artisans cooperative is a non-profit organization that supports local artists and craftsmen and promotes their work in a store front operated by the members of the co-op.
In lieu of an owner, the organization has an executive board: Jennifer Meehl, president; Hallee Humbler, vice president; Bonnie North, treasurer; and Carolyn Harris, executive board member.
The original storefront was located in Saxtons River for many years before moving into downtown Bellows Falls in September 2017. “We were sad to leave Saxtons River but happy to be in Bellows Falls,” said Meehl. “The neighborhood is so welcoming.”
River Artisans offer a variety of “really homemade, really Vermont” products such as textiles, leather, paintings, photography, and more. In order to become a member of the River Artisan cooperative, artists must undergo a jury process that covers the craft, skill, and complexity of their products. There are about 30 members currently associated with the cooperative. Many of them also work shifts in the Bellows Falls store.
According to Meehl, her favorite part of the cooperative store is when customers ask questions about the artwork and interact with it. “That’s the main reason the move is so good.”
Local artisans include Tom Goldschmidt who turns bowls, treated with wax and sells his own honey in the store. Rod Hewitt creates wooden bowls and plates and is designing the new storefront sign to be released in 2018.
River Artisans cooperative is always looking to bring on new members, especially young artists trying to get their foot in the door.
The River Artisans store is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.