Janesville50.2°

Cottage industry grows at Gardens

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
September 6, 2011
— Sales almost doubled one month after the newly reorganized gift shop at Rotary Botanical Gardens opened July 1.

"Our first full month was phenomenal and we expect the sale of merchandise flying off the shelves to continue," said Mary Willmer-Sheedy, gardens board chairwoman.


Cottage Garden Gallery, the gardens' renovated gift shop, offers a wide variety of handmade, one-of-a-kind items from local artists that is very affordable, said Barb Mallon, gardens board member and gift shop committee member.


"If you're decorating your home, looking for a gift or buying something for yourself, this is the place to come," said Sally Edelman, gardens board member and gift shop committee member.


Mallon, along with Edelman, Ron Wentzel and Georgie Davis volunteered to reshape the gift shop in May. The gallery reopened July 1.


An open house featuring more than half the shop's existing 41 Wisconsin artists is planned Sept. 15 in conjunction with the kick-off to Art Infusion week along the Janesville Mile. The mini art fair provides an opportunity for artists to showcase things that don't fit into the gallery, Edelman said.


A revamp of the gift shop was necessary, Wentzel said.


"We looked at weeks of merchandise in hand that were not turning a profit," he said.


Since the renovations, sales have "exceeded our expectations," Wentzel said.


Seventy-five percent of the gallery's artists live in south central Wisconsin, including Rock County. Their jewelry, wall décor, serving pieces and other merchandise are displayed in refurbished, locally made Shuler cabinetry and on glass shelves and shop walls.


"It's a great cross-section of every price from $1 to $550," Wentzel said.


The gallery operates on consignment, so there is a constant rotation of merchandise, Davis said. It also runs solely on the manpower of volunteers, who Davis organizes.


Wentzel handles the reporting and operations side of the gallery making sure artists are paid correctly and on time, all while also tracking.


For their part, Mallon and Edelman log hundreds of miles and hours traveling throughout the sate to pick up works from participating gallery artists.


Those interested in having their works showcased at the gift shop can find an application online at rotarybotanicalgardens.org/gift-shop.


If you go


What: Cottage Garden Gallery grand opening
When: 4-8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15.
Where: Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive, Janesville.

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