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Sue Bush
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A Bear of a Business

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, April 14, 2005

A collection of hand-carved wooden statues greet Beartown shop visitors.
Williamstown - Keith and Christina Randall believe in a bear market.
The couple own and operate the rustic, country-themed Beartown Gifts and Décor shop at the Williamstown Marketplace on Route 7. An eye-catching outdoor display of large, carved wooden bear statues stand as evidence of Keith Randall’s sculpting abilities.

The roadside statue collection does capture attention, he said during an April 14 interview.

“People are very intrigued by this,” he said.

FROM WOOD TO WOW

A self-taught artist, Randall designs the statues through strategic use of chainsaws, he said.

“One day, I just picked up a chainsaw and started practicing,” he said. “I use mostly pine, but I have carved other woods, like ash and maple. I don’t have any patterns or tracings, it’s all in my head and I just start cutting.”

An eagle carving


The results are impressive. Randall’s detailed bear statues are designed in a variety of sizes and poses, and boast textured, wood-carved “fur.” The collection includes a black bear mailbox station, a bear-and-cubs yard lamp, and bears carrying lanterns. Randall has not limited himself to bear carvings; a bald eagle, a moose, and a dog are also displayed at the business site. And there’s more carving to come, he said.

“I’m starting up with horse heads, and I’ve done frogs,” he said. “I have done pieces on commission and I do go to people’s homes and turn a tree stump into a piece of art.”

Live carving demonstrations are scheduled as part of the Adams Agricultural Fair and a three-county Northampton-based fair later this year, Randall said. He is seeking town permits that would allow demonstrations at the shop, he added.

Shop owner and woodcarver Keith Randall and a "bear family" carving


The carving is time-consuming, Randall said. A particularly intricate carving required several weeks of concentrated effort.
“And the finish work, the sanding, the painting, took a few more days,” he said.

Randall noted that he uses up to seven different saws while carving. Saw sizes range from small detailing tools to a large log-cutting saw with a three-foot bar, he said. The statues are coated with an outdoor urethane product but do require some owner maintenance.

“Every piece comes with a care sheet,” he said. “The statues should get a yearly coat of varnish, and maybe some touch-up paint. If these are neglected, they could still last for five to 10 years, but like anything else that’s neglected, they will start to rot. If these are taken care of properly, they could last 50 years.”
Carving is not done at the Route 7 shop but at another site, he said.

A handcrafted log bedroom set is included in the Beartown inventory


MOOSE DROOL, MAPLE SYRUP, and MORE

The shop isn’t entirely devoted to wildlife sculpture; the vast interior is filled with country-style chandeliers – some crafted to resemble antlers-, rustic wall-hangings, mirrors with hand-designed wooden frames, leather furniture, accessories, and products such as a beer-bread mix named “Moose Drool,” and Massachusetts-made maple syrup. The couple is adding a log-hewn furniture collection that includes beds, tables, bureaus, and other items.

“We are excited about the log furniture collection,” Randall said. “It’s all hand-crafted and we have several different suppliers.”

“Bigger” and “better” are the business buzz-words, Randall said. “Growing, getting bigger and maybe building a nice log showroom; our goal is to get better and better,” Randall said.

A "bear with lantern" carving sits near the Beartown shop entrance.


Beginning on May 1, the store will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Thursday, when the shop will remain open until 8 p.m.. Current hours and additional information may be acquired by calling 413-458-4499. The business Web site address is beartowngiftsanddécor.com.

Susan Bush may be reached by calling 802-823-9367, or via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net
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