Evergreen Fine American Crafts
Evergreen Fine American Arts
291 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Drive through downtown Great Barrington in the summer and you’ll immediately recognize Evergreen by the windsocks fluttering in the wind, the colorful Vermont-made tube-like kites hanging from the awning.
The interior of the store is just as whimsical. Upon entering, your eyes are met with an explosion of color: copper mobiles, blown glass garden decorations, painted furniture, delicate jewelry, finely woven dresses, cutting boards from locally harvested lumber, and colorfully glazed pottery. When you check the tag or the bottom of a piece, you’ll discover that all of the items were made by craftspeople in the United States.
As two artists with an interest in handcrafted goods, Barbara Watkins and her husband set out to start Evergreen with a small loan from her parents and a promise to their friends to carry their artwork. Evergreen is a labor of love for Barbara and her husband and it shows. Their own craftsmanship has gone into the painted trompe l’oeil walls, hand made displays in the front window, and overall curation of the space.
The justification to stock only United States-made goods originated as an esthetic preference and desire to support the artisan community, but what now seems like a radical ethos has since transformed into the hallmark of their brand. Naysayers told Barbara that she’d never last with such a procurement approach, but she has proved proponents of globalization wrong at Evergreen, now in her 38th year of business. Knowing who made the product, rather than finding a sticker that says “Made in China”, adds a special touch that her customers appreciate and has built a loyal customer base.
When it comes to sourcing products, Barbara considers function before beauty, though the latter takes a close second. Her approach is simple: buy everyday products that she would want to use or wear herself. Barbara prides herself on owning all of her inventory and is always on the hunt for new goods, traveling to craft shows around the country and scouting talent while on the road. She even encourages artists to stop in the store to show her their work.
Over the years it’s become harder to find products made in America, yet Barbara has stayed true to her word. She is quick to sever ties with a craftsperson who is cutting corners or compromising, like shipping their designs overseas where items can be made for less money. She says, resolutely and empowered, “I just won’t buy from them.” It’s that kind of commitment to integrity that has made her a champion of downtown Great Barrington’s retail community.
Evergreen was one of the early adopters of BerkShares, as it fits right in with Barbara’s hyper-local mantra. She has observed the effect of online shopping on the community and recognizes BerkShares as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of keeping money circulating locally. She believes that the key to maintaining a vibrant downtown is in good customer service and lives by the golden rule, “treat your customers the way you want to be treated.” And that extends to main street: It’s on all of us to support the local businesses if we want to see them stick around.