Strohl Art Center won’t open its doors until Sunday, but the VACI Gallery Store will hold its first-ever grand opening 6 p.m. Saturday.
Along with what store manager Lynn LeFauve estimated were “well over 2,000” items, there will be plenty of “Chautauqua Champagne” for guests. This season will also be the first in which the store is open seven days a week instead of six.
LeFauve worked on setting up the store Thursday with Jerome Chesley and his wife, Kathryn. Chesley helps out when needed, and Kathryn, works as a sales associate.
LeFauve said it takes about two weeks to set up the store, and that they “set it up as if it’s brand-new every year.”
“We have to have the right amount of stuff,” LeFauve said. “Not too little, not too much.”
Early last week, the space was sparsely populated with a few folding tables and stacks of boxes. By Thursday, it was brimming with jewelry, scarves, housewares and notecards.
Chesley drew particular attention to a collection of obsidian windchimes, that have been popular in the past, and hand-blown glass pitchers, carafes and candle holders (or vases — they’re multifunctional). The glasswares are from Italy and house colorful glass sea creatures.
The store offers felt jackets from California, necklaces and bracelets made from computer circuitry, and women’s bows made from men’s neckties. There are also, he pointed out, kid-appropriate toys for anyone shopping for children or grandchildren.
The store features work by both returning and new artists, whom Chesley said LeFauve is “always looking for.”
“As many as I can get,” LeFauve said.
She and Chesley have their own work available in the store. LeFauve’s paintings hang behind her desk, with her earrings nearby in a display case. Chesley said if LeFauve can’t find an artist selling the kind of products she knows Chautauquans want, LeFauve will make them herself (like the earrings).
Chesley designs notecards that are painted with Chautauqua-area landmarks, like Bemus Point, that are available in the store.
“As an artist, when I sell something I get a real high out of it,” he said. “So, when we’re selling work for other artists, it’s like we’re getting that high from them.”