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SALUTING WOMEN IN BUSINESS: Small box store

Marsha Drake Jewelry makes it local

Jan. 12, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

 

Marsha Drake (above) makes and sells handcrafted jewelry out of her Williston home. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Despite living in a town known for its big box stores, Marsha Drake sticks with small boxes — the kind you put jewelry in.

Drake, who runs the eponymous Marsha Drake Jewelry out of her Brennan Woods home, said her business has thrived in Williston because of — not in spite of — the preponderance of national retail chains in town.

“I think with all the big box stores people are really interested in finding something that somebody’s making locally,” said Drake. “They want something that’s individual. They want to wear it to work and know that they’re not going to see 10 other people wearing it, and that’s a pretty big deal in Williston.”

All of Drake’s jewelry — including earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings — are handmade and use recycled metals and local materials whenever possible.

“I try to be environmentally conscious of where I get my silver and my stones,” Drake said. “Whenever I purchase (materials), I try not to purchase something new; I try to purchase something that’s from a local antique shop.”

Drake started her business in 2004, beginning with beaded necklaces and later expanding into metalwork and custom jewelry orders.

“With the beading, I always thought that I was taking other people’s art and just rearranging it, so with the soldering, it’s really more of my art and my design,” Drake said.

Rings, such as the one above, are one of several types of local jewelry Drake offers consumers. (Observer photo by Dave Schmidt)

She noted that the inspiration for her art can strike at any time — even while sleeping.

“I sometimes dream (designs), and then I have to get up and either make them right away or draw them out,” said Drake. “Living in Vermont, it’s really easy to be inspired, because it’s just such a beautiful place.”

Drake grew up in Underhill and has lived in Williston for the past 20 years with her husband, Bob. They have two sons, aged 12 and 14.

In addition to serving on the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee in 2008 and 2009, she also worked as a paraeducator at Williston Central School for two years, thinking that her jewelry business would suffer during the late-2000s recession.

A Marsha Drake jewelry display of a handcrafted necklace and earrings (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

“My husband and I talked about it for a long time, and I thought with the recession hitting, I should probably get a regular-paying, full-time gig,” Drake explained, “and so I did, expecting my jewelry business to slow down, and when I look back at the numbers, they were almost exactly the same.”

She speculated that rather than forego shopping altogether, consumers were just more careful about spending during the recession and chose quality over quantity.

“During those two years I was working at the school, I had a ton of cash sales, so I think people were being a lot more conscientious about budgeting,” she said.

Although Drake is still involved with the Williston school system, volunteering as a budget buddy during the current school budget season, her business is operating at full steam.

“Williston is just a great place to do this (business), because people are so supportive,” Drake said.

Although she admits she doesn’t do the best job of advertising or promoting her business, she said she’s thankful for a loyal customer base.

“I am not the businesswoman of the year,” Drake laughed. “So I’m glad they like it, because if they didn’t, I would be in trouble.”

For more information about Marsha Drake Jewelry, visit marshadrakejewelry.com.