So who would think a drafty old unheated honest-to-God barn from a long-time farm would be a hot spot for unique art and decorative items?
The Outlet Barn Garden and Art Center has been in business in this very same old barn for the past 15 years, with a list of loyal customers and new people stopping every day. They close on Christmas Eve and reopen on April 1, weather permitting, so I’ve moved cards and merchandise into the place and we decided on a few more things as well.
My display of feline greeting cards and notecards is in place, and with them are my garden-inspired greeting cards and notecards inspired by nature and My Home Town, all of which did quite well in the short time they were there last holiday season. In addition I have a selection of small feline and nature photos and prints in small displays and scattered throughout, and we decided today that I’d bring in a few larger prints and see how they went before bringing in more. This is also a home for crocheted washcloths, and likely a home for other handmade items that I have been planning—that painted furniture and decorative household items such as coasters and trivet tiles made from art and sketches.
And even as I was unpacking and setting up it was hard not to start browsing! I began visiting there because the place looked like the sort of place I’d like to check out, not carefully coiffed or neatly arranged, but artfully arranged and colorful outside, and inside just crowded enough in the semi-darkness of the old barn that I could take my time to peruse without feeling overwhelmed.
I ended up moving things into there because the former manager of the Agway I had been selling at was friends with Kathy, The Barn’s owner, and simply went to her and said I’d be over with my things, she’d like them and me. Life should be filled with such friends.
Kathy herself is the one who artfully arranges things in a way that makes people passing on the road find it hard to resist, and is also a master with ribbon and grapevines and such and creates all the wreaths and swags sold throughout the year, often custom-making them for long-time customers. She also makes beaded jewelry for sale in the shop.
She also plans the events with local musicians playing jazz and folk and alternative in among the gargoyles and gazing globes, or out back in one of the sample gazebos.
And I can’t forget the enthusiastic rescued chocolate lab named Irish Malarkey, named so because his eyes were green when he was a puppy, who rides in with his human every day. He carefully checked each of my boxes for treats, in between trotting around the place with that huge destructive lab tail without overturning as much as a small terra cotta flowerpot.
Supporting a local small business is important from both standpoints, from buying and selling, so in addition to placing my things there on consignment, I also promote the places where my things are consigned. I’ll share notices of events, which will be of greatest interest to local friends, and also of things I find there that you might enjoy—feline-themed of course, like the shelf cats pictured here, and the bunny planter. But there plenty of animal-themed things about the place, plus really cool gargoyles.
I have a love-hate relationship with retail. I love to create my artwork and even to create the derivative items from it like cards and notepads and prints, and the best way to get my artwork known is to create and sell these things, but it takes time to drive around and visit shops, introduce myself, deliver the goods and maintain a display; if I seem to have disappeared somewhat in the past week or so, this is why. I’ve been calling and driving around, following up suggestions from friends to visit and introduce myself and show a few representative pieces of what I have for sale. I have been in Distinctively Different Decor & More, having moved yet more artwork in last weekend for the open house. This week I was sorting and packing and labeling and preparing merchandise for this move.
The actual sales from this might break even for expenses and time, but the real benefit is in finding new customers and making new friends, and just sharing my inspirations. Finding a shop where I also have other reasons to visit just makes it better.
And there’s another constant—animals and animal rescue. One door closes and another one opens as our friends share us with their friends. It is not a loss and a gain, but simply a change.
If you see merchandise pictured here, whether it’s mine or not, that you are interested in, please follow the link to The Outlet Barn website or let me know. The website is not an online store for things in the shop because there’s just too much, but Kathy will be glad to give you a few details and ship something to you if purchase it with the possible exception of a concrete gargoyle.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.
I visited the Agway farm store today where I usually buy my cat food, bird seed and outdoor tools and plants and seeds for my garden, as well as restock my displays of greeting cards and gift items.
But today was not the day to seek out Gambit and Tabatha’ latest hiding spot, or visit a cage of stray or feral kittens on their way to being socialized and bound for loving adoptive homes.
The store is closing, has in fact closed, and I went to pack up my stuff and buy what I could from the merchandise that was left.
Agway stores and similar farm supply stores provided farms with specific products that couldn’t be found any other place. As the number of both working and hobby farms has decreased in Allegheny County, the clientele has decreased, and even with picking up home, garden and pet supplies, a small shop can’t compete with the big box stores.
But the big box stores don’t rescue stray kittens and cats, nor do they sell your home-canned pickles and apple butter, nor the eggs produced by the chicks you bought from them last year and raised with help from others who shop there and know about hens and roosters.
Marty and Prince are the last two kittens left for adoption at Agway this year, and with them several feral mothers were trapped and spayed and a total of 15 kittens were trapped, spayed, neutered and adopted. That’s a lot of cats who have homes and plenty of kittens who won’t be born next year!
Marty is about ten weeks old and has about a half-pound to gain before she can be spayed. She’s a lovely tabby girl, friendly and playful and affectionate with customers.
Prince (who was Princess until he was neutered the other day) is about fourteen weeks old and ready to go home with anyone who comes along!
They are not related and came from different places, but get along well with each other, so will probably get along well with other cats, at least.
Several years ago, Don and Sloane this Agway learned several lessons in keeping cats, turning an overpopulated situation into one of assistance to others and stray and feral cats.
They took in a box of barn kittens from a customer after they lost their shop cat. They didn’t get them spayed and neutered in time, one of four disappeared and the two females had litters that summer. Then the customer brought in another box of kittens, soon others wanted to bring their kittens, and, yes, instant overpopulation.
The farm supply store doesn’t make much money now that most farm customers have either sold their farms to developers or simply moved into surrounding counties, and spaying and neutering over a dozen cats is an expensive proposition. I told them about the low-cost spay-neuter programs and the Spay and Neuter Clinic, and also about the Homeless Cat Management Team as did others, and all of us helped them to get that group fixed and find homes. You can read about that in this article.
In the next few years, others did try to simply dump their unwanted kittens there, but the word was that the Agway would only take kittens if the mother had been or had an appointment to be spayed, and they handed out the same spay/neuter information they had used themselves. Where the mother cats were strays or ferals who couldn’t be caught, the Agway loaned out traps and gave people advice on how to use them. Over the past few years one feral colony has been reduced from four or five reproducing mothers to one feral mother still outside who couldn’t yet be caught, and a half dozen reproducing female cats who are now spayed after people were given information on low-cost options and constant urging to get their cats spayed.
Don and Sloane have taken in the kittens, cleaned them up and socialized them, spaying and neutering at the right age if they aren’t adopted yet, and helped to find homes so that the stray and feral mothers could be spayed and often taken in by the families who trapped them.
Perhaps it would be better if people did adopt from shelters to reduce their populations, but on the other hand it’s not a bad thing to take the burden off of shelters and at the same time provide spay/neuter and health information, often sending people to the Humane Society and Animal Rescue League for spay/neuter and veterinary care, thereby supporting the shelter financially.
It’s another place I can go to get my kitten fix too! Here is another article with photos about this year’s kittens at Agway. And here is a photo of two cats in their permanent collection.