Owner Donna Todd Rivers and manager Alexis Jones hung banners announcing the closing Thursday afternoon. The store will be closed by the end of August.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Bisque, Beads and Beyond is closing its street-level, North Street storefront.
Owner Donna Todd Rivers said she is liquidating the merchandise and the 3,000 or so square foot crafts shop will be vacated by September.
She is moving the bead sales to online only, looking for somebody to purchase the pottery business, and focusing on expanding her canvas painting classes she has been offering in a separate leased space in the building.
"I've decided to change the way I do business. We'll be closing the street location, which is the top floor, by Aug. 30. I am liquidating all of my retail stock and the majority of my fixtures," Rivers said on Thursday, in between hanging signage announcing the closure.
"It was not an easy decision to make. I love the business. It is financially healthy ... I did entertain trying to sell it and I do have a couple people who might be interested in the pottery section. If they buy it, it would be terrific because it will be back in the community."
Rivers is retaining space she leases on the first floor to spin off the painting classes into a new company. For the last decade, Rivers has been hosting painting classes through Bisque, Beads and Beyond.
"You start with a blank canvas and I walk you all the way through to a finished canvas," Rivers said.
She has been getting booked to run classes for parties — such as a recent bachellotette party — school groups, businesses, individuals and families. She has requests nearly every night of the week, she said, and by closing the storefront, that new focus will expand.
"Our canvas painting parties have been wildly successful. So we are going to have a classroom event room. I will still in this building working in some capacity, teaching and holding events nights and weekends," Rivers said. "We'll be able to do a lot more of them. I've been booking in September and October. We've businesses looking to do them. We'll travel and do them in schools."
While that part of the business had been taking off, Rivers noticed more and more of her customers purchasing beads were doing so online.
"Walk-in, storefront, retail isn't quite what it should be for what I do. Most women buy beads online. It is a big online business. I really was spending more time shipping beads out than I do ringing them up at the register," Rivers said.
Meanwhile, Bisque, Beads and Beyond's manager Alexis Jones is retiring, tasking Rivers with finding and training a new manager. Jones had been with the company since its inception 11 years ago.
With the lease expiring, Rivers said she decided all of the "stars aligned" and she opted to close the store front. The closure of the main store area frees up time during the day for her to become more active in the community.
"I'm committed to this town and I just have to give back," Rivers said.
Rivers narrowly lost a bid for City Council in the last election and hosts a radio show discussing local news and politics. She says working in the civic field has become a passion and she wants to dedicate more time doing that.
"I will definitely be in the community," she said. "You can't get rid of me."
Bisque, Beads and Beyond was formed 11 years ago out of a one-room Peck's Road building. Less than a year in, the business needed more space and six months later she was looking to expand again.
Bisque, Beads and Beyond takes up more than 3,000 square-feet of space.
"I stayed on Peck's Road and I loved it. It was a great location. I grew out of there. I really thought it was going to be a cute, little business. I never thought the community would embrace it they way they did. When it did, it took me by surprise," Rivers said.
"I was going to open the small business and go back to practicing law. That was my intent in 2004. That was the plan."
The city had placed a larger emphasis on revitalizing downtown and arts and tourism became a larger focus in economic development plans. In 2009, Rivers was seeking a larger location and opted to move to North Street.
"They were looking for arts-based businesses. They were looking for entrepreneurs, for people who wanted to lead. It just seemed like the right fit. They had the space and I was ready to grow," Rivers said.
Bisque, Beads and Beyond nearly left North Street last year. When negotiations over a renewed lease looked to fall flat, Rivers decided to close. Shortly after she broke the news and plotted out the closure of the business, the two sides reached an agreement allowing her to stay for another year.
With the lease expiring again on top of her manager's retirement, the growing online business and a desire to be more in the public sphere, Rivers opted not to negotiate another extension.
"This is about all of the stars in align at the same time," Rivers said. "It's bittersweet. I love what I do. I love this space. I love the business and the customers. I'm going to miss the families and people."