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Shop sharing

Two Greenfield businesswomen decide to share space

GREENFIELD — Two local businesswomen have found a way to save money and simplify shopping for their customers at the same time.

Ann Skowron and Christi Bartos met at a Business Women’s Association of Franklin County meeting several years ago and “hit it off” right away.

They found they had a lot in common, including jewelry — Skowron is a master jeweler and owner of Imagine Jewelers at 38 Bank Row. Bartos, owner of All About Beads, was located on Main Street at the time, but has since moved to join Skowron.

“We were both doing OK on our own, but we’d both heard about shop sharing and started talking about it,” said Bartos.

Recently, Bartos decided she needed to find a new space and that’s when she and Skowron started discussing the idea of shop sharing more seriously.

The two women began researching the idea and found that across the country, business owners are doing the same thing.

Retail space sharing isn’t new. Big-box stores began subletting a few years ago to reduce real-estate expenses, and benefit from store-within-a-store branding. Some examples: Wal-Mart and Target offer Apple ministores, Sears sublets to clothing retailer Forever 21, and a health-care uniform boutique called Scrubology operates inside some Sears and Kmart stores.

In Skowron and Bartos’ case, they found that shop sharing immediately cuts down on overhead expenses.

“We are each paying half of the rent, electricity, heat, all of those types of expenses,” said Skowron.

The women, who call themselves “pioneers in the Pioneer Valley,” said it is also working because their stores complement each other.

“We have similar customers,” said Bartos. “In some cases, we have the same customers, so it’s one-stop shopping for them.”

The two women said they send their customers across the room to each other if one can’t help.

“If someone is looking for something I can’t supply, or if they need something repaired and I can’t do it, I send them to Ann, and vice versa,” said Bartos.

“I do the same,” said Skowron. “And sometimes a customer comes in to one of us with something specific in mind, looks around for a few minutes, and ends up buying something from the other one.”

They said, for instance, if someone comes in looking for a pair of earrings and can’t find what they want, the two women will “put our heads together” to design something, and then depending on what type of earring, Skowron or Bartos will custom-make a pair.

They said they don’t feel a sense of competition, because they look at the entire situation as a win-win.

Skowron and Bartos said each also has more flex time now and they are able to maximize store hours.

“We know that there’s always going to be someone in the shop during business hours, so we can each do what we need to do and leave the shop for a short time if we need to,” said Bartos.

Skowron said that when she and Bartos decided to share space, they spent time drawing schematics of how the shop would look and how it would be set up.

“It’s a small space, but it works,” said Bartos, whose beads are at the front of the store. “We just had to get creative.”

The two women admit that it was a “little strange” in the beginning.

“We’d both been working solo for so many years that it was weird at first, but we got used to it very quickly,” said Bartos.

Skowron had a shop in New York, N.Y. for 28 years and has been on Bank Row for the past four years. Bartos has owned All About Beads for the past 18 years.

They said the move has been good for both of their businesses, because both have retained their own customers, but some of those customers have become the other’s as well.

The two do a lot of marketing together and Bartos runs classes that Skowron and some of her customers take.

“I do fun with wire classes, wire wrapping classes, basics in beading classes, and I hold beaders bees,” said Bartos.

“I attended one of her wire wrapping classes and was so proud of what I made,” said Skowron. “It’s good to know about each other’s work so that we can help each other’s customers when the other isn’t around.”

Skowron said she does all that a traditional jeweler does, including ring sizing, design, engraving, repair and restoration, and more. She makes most of the jewelry she sells.

Bartos runs the beading classes and sells the supplies one would need to take up the hobby.

“I teach people how to go through the beading process, including design, stringing and clasping,” said Bartos.

She also does bead repair, but if she can’t repair something, she turns to Skowron.

Bartos said the most popular class she offers is wire wrapping with stones and sea glass.

She said she will hold a Beaders Bee on Nov. 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and a Fun with Wire class on Nov. 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the shop on Bank Row.

Skowron and Bartos will hold an open house with light refreshments from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 15.

All About Beads and Imagine Jewelers are open Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information about Imagine Jewelers, call 413-475-1310. For more information about All About Beads, call 413-773-3766 or email: all_about_beads@verizon.net.

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