Quixote Consulting’s headquarters are located in Franklin County in western Massachusetts and there’s nowhere else we’d rather be. Here’s an example of what makes this area so special to us: John McNamara and Erin MacLean’s quest to renovate an old building and open a unique store in Turners Falls, MA. The store, called Loot, opens today. Here’s their story.
By Laura Herbert
The large windows of the storefront at 62 Avenue A in Turners Falls, Massachusetts are covered in blueprint papers, keeping the anxiously awaiting public in suspense, wondering about what is coming. Proprietors John McNamara and Erin MacLean have owned the building for four years, during which time they have completed massive renovations, while at the same time brewing plans to open a store that features a delectable array of vintage items, industrial artifacts, as well as work from local artisans and craftspeople. The store, aptly called Loot, opens on October 21st , just in time for leaf-peeping season. It will be open weekly from Wednesday to Sunday.
For the past five years, McNamara and MacLean have been collecting vintage items and industrial artifacts and have been selling them out of their warehouse, at the Brimfield flea market, and at other flea markets in New York. But, their idea to open the store came out of being inspired by Turners Falls. The couple had been looking to relocate from Fitchburg to Franklin County, but when they saw Turners Falls, “It was love at first sight,” said MacLean. Inspired by the unique combination of city and country, as well as the creative and cultural activity in the town, McNamara and MacLean felt that they wanted to be a part of that. Although they didn’t know anyone when they arrived, they felt that there was a special sense of community. “We could see it before we were a part of it,” said McNamara.
Four years later, McNamara and MacLean are very much a part of it as they prepare for the grand unveiling of Loot, which is located in the 1877 building on Avenue A between the Crocker Building and Jake’s Tavern. This past week, I was lucky enough to be granted a sneak preview of Loot, and I can attest that it has, without a doubt, been worth the wait.
Upon entering the beautifully renovated space with vaulted ceilings, I found myself overcome with excitement as I tried to decide what to look at first. A few things stood out, such as a beautifully handcrafted table in the middle of the room, made by local artisan, James Fountain. Other items, like a giant wire swan (a former window display from Wilson’s Department Store) and an oversized tiger mask perched on top of an industrial locker were also hard to miss.
After taking in the first few items that caught my eye, I perused the premises, looking at tantalizing displays created by MacLean, who has a background in art and design. There, I found fun and quirky collections of vintage rulers, tools, men’s ties, fabric, buttons, ribbon, ladies gloves, rubber Halloween masks, cocktail napkins, one-of-a-kind art, and a whole assortment of other delightful treasures.
While touring the premises, McNamara and MacLean explained that their store features items that are both found and made. The fantastically eclectic assortment of goods I had been viewing was found by McNamara, who has been an antique and industrial artifact collector and dealer since 1988. Industrial artifacts, as McNamara explained, are pieces that have been found in factories, such as metal desks, tables, cabinets, molds and the like. These items, once cleaned up, take on a whole new life, and are highly valued by decorators for their use, either practical or as decoration, in homes, restaurants, and bars. Many such items, including a vast multi-drawer cabinet, and a sleek steel desk are for sale at Loot.
Loot also features many things that are made, mostly by local artisans. Such items include: jewelry, cards, handbags, mittens, soy candles, pottery, wooden bowls, and custom tables and benches. Much of the work has a re-purposed quality, which fits in rather nicely with the collections of found items. For instance, one of the artisans produces jewelry made from tin containers. There is even work by local artist, Daryl Ballou, which was made using the original wood that was salvaged during the renovations of the building!
One thing that is apparent right away is that Loot is not your average antique shop. This is not a museum-like room filled with expensive, dusty antiques. What you’ll find is a surprising and delightful assortment of affordable treasures waiting to be explored in a friendly and welcoming environment. “We want it to be an affordable, approachable, creative, and welcoming environment,” said MacLean. And it is just that. Even the logo features an artist’s rendering of a friendly-looking raccoon. “We want to encourage people to search through things and explore,” MacLean added.
To be sure, Loot will be a most welcome addition to both Turners Falls and Franklin County. “It’s going to be ever-changing,” said McNamara when speaking of their inventory. As they are always collecting new things, you just never know what loot you might find there.