BENNINGTON – A new retail space and cafe will open Saturday on Main Street, bringing the work of designers, makers and entrepreneurs to downtown Bennington.
Called W. Collective, the new boutique is the brainchild of Sarah Krinsky and Bri Magnifico, who each have experience in clothing retail. W. Collective should be a deliberately offline experience, inviting customers to see, smell and touch the merchandise.
“We’re very tactile people,” Magnifico said Wednesday, as the two prepared the store for its grand opening at 10 a.m. “We like to feel luxury.”
W. Collective is located at 332 Main St., the former home of Catbird Studio. There, customers will discover vintage clothing and vintage home decor, as well as records, artwork, plants, and other items from their partner vendors. Coffee will be provided by 1a Coffee Roasters of Wilmington.
The store will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Krinsky said her past experience in retail taught her that she much prefers in-person interactions to the digital kind. When her own store in Camelot Village, My Generation Vintage, had to close at the onset of the pandemic, she began to think about how to open a new space, preferably with a partner.
“I started toying with this idea of how to make a space on Main Street work for me, and that kind of way W. Collective started to articulate,” she said. “I was thinking about how I could get other sellers to work with me to share the space, to keep a really nice store, and not do it myself.
“That’s when I asked Bri to join me, because her passion was also to have her own showcase. So I think we both have that common thread and that passion and being able to do something like that is what brings it to life,” she said.
“We both dream of owning a store,” Magnifico added. “For me, it’s about creating an environment and taking you into the present, but also into the past and the future.
“It creates an atmosphere, and that’s really important, like putting on the music, the lighting, you know, the smells and everything,” she said. “Having control of it is like a dream.”
The two women met at Your Belly’s Deli, owned by Magnifico’s father, while Krinsky and her husband were visiting from Syracuse, NY. The two discovered that they had both worked in New York’s Soho neighborhood and quickly became friends.
Magnifico, who had not yet decided to return to his native Bennington, encouraged Krinsky to move. “I was like, ‘We need more young people to move to Bennington,'” she said.
With W. Collective, the two intend to provide a place where sellers feel confident that they and their work will be well presented. “If they didn’t want to interact with people in person, there are two people running this store for them,” Krinsky said. “We see it, and we love it, and we know the hard work and time that goes into it, so we’re here to kind of really promote it and champion it.”
“We are always on the lookout for new suppliers,” Magnifico said.
The W in W. Collective represents women, but that doesn’t mean only women are represented — rather, it’s an acknowledgment that women have been hit particularly hard by the effects of the pandemic.
“A lot of women had lost their jobs,” Magnifico noted, “so everyone gets into this kind of gig-saving vibe, gets a little crafty, and tries to figure out how to make money, just to stay. afloat.”
The social effects of the business are a major concern for owners. 1a Coffee Roasters, for example, intends to be certified as a B Corporation, a new type of company that is legally required to consider the impact of its decisions on its employees, customers, suppliers , its community and the environment.
“Our main goal is to be sustainable and to make sure we do everything we can with the least carbon footprint possible,” Magnifico said.
The companies W. Collective chose to order from are those “that ticked a number of boxes — either they were minority-based, women-owned, environmentally friendly, and sustainable,” Krinsky said.
The focus on vintage clothing and homewares also aligns with this vision, she added. “These are all products that exist…It’s certainly an area of the market that has a lot of interest from people around the world.”
Krinsky and Magnifico also want to hold workshops and events in their store and in the nearby courtyard. “We’re hoping to partner with local farms and/or Vermont wineries and that sort of thing,” Magnifico said. “We want to make the most of this amazing space,” Krinsky agreed.
The two, both members of the Southwest Vermont Chamber of Commerce’s Shires Young Professionals group, are optimistic about the revitalization of the Putnam Block and other changes underway in the downtown core, and contribute to its growing vibrancy. .
“I think being a brick-and-mortar store is being able to support all the other businesses that are in town,” Krinsky said. “I think the only way we’re going to be able to compete with, you know, these big online sellers is to provide that personal experience that you don’t get online.
“With the easing of the pandemic, you know, we’ve definitely seen more people going out, wanting to socialize, wanting to shop, and it’s just nice to be able to be a part of that and be able to play a part in that.
“I really feel like there’s a change coming, and I think it’s going to be really awesome,” Magnifico said. “I think Bennington is going to be – I think it’s on the rise.”