The crafts of more than 40 local artisans are on display and for sale at a new co-op which opened its doors in Branchville last month. The new shop—Ally Bally Bee—is the brainchild of resident Morag Grassie.
Grassie, who lived in Westport for more than four years before moving to Redding—"up the hill ... surrounded by open meadows and woods where we can hike and run our high energy dogs"—recently spoke to Patch about why she opened her new business.
"I had been making purses and selling them at trunk shows and craft fairs for about five years." she said. "Craft fairs are wonderful places to pick up unique items, but they are not always happening when you need that unique item or gift. Or on the day of a craft fair the weather is bad and the turn out disappointing. The store brings the best of the best that you might find at a craft fair, but we are there six days a week, 52 weeks of the year."
The store also provides artisans with more options as to when to sell their wares.
"It's also a great platform for artisans who sometimes can't make it to the bigger craft fairs because of the high cost," Grassie continued. "This way everyone works together to cover the costs of the store whilst still selling their own creations at a great price."
Grassie said the co-op offers a little bit of everything, and "the list is growing on a daily basis."
Currently, she said, the store's offerings include jewelry, clothing, hand-made soap, artisanal body creams, hair accessories, stationary products, toys, art offerings and more.
"We have an outstanding sculpture artist who make the most wonderful birds out of recycled bicycles," she said.
The process of choosing what items to sell at the store is a delicate one, Grassie explained.
"Each artisan is chosen to complement the products that we have in the store," she said. "Our goal is to have no overlap between artisans so they can each offer a unique product. So they need to have the unique element but obviously the quality must be of a very high standard and offer the community a great product at a competitive price."
Grassie said some of the artisans whose crafts are for sale were hand-chosen.
"I have been meeting and compiling a list of artisans over the last two-and-one-half years as I did craft shows myself," she said. "Not only did the product have to meet the criteria, but the artisans were chosen because their passion for what they created and their love of sharing their talent. When you visit the co-op and some of the artisans are present, the energy and joy is strongly present. It's a wonderful collaboration of people."
What's in a name?
"'Ally Bally Bee' is an old Scottish children's song all about a wee girl sitting on her mom's knee," said Grassie, who is Scottish. "So many artisans learn their craft from moms and grandmas—it's a lovely connection."
Grassie said the store opened quietly on July 10 so as to ensure all artisans had ample time to get everything organized. Business is going well so far, as the store's already surpassed its sales goals.
Ally Bally Bee will have a grand opening in September, at which time they'll also begin offering artisan-taught classes, Grassie said.
"It's been an exciting three months completely renovating the property, bringing the arts together and presenting them in a cohesive way," Grassie said. "My husband Neil is also an architect which made designing the store a wonderful experience. It's a wonderful space that has been created."
Ally Bally Bee is located at 45 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield, near Tusk and Cup Cafe. It's open Monday through Saturday from 10 to 6 p.m. For more information, visit the store's website or Facebook page or call 203.493.5037.