She’s wearing a long white dress with black splotches. White seaglass hangs from her ears and around her neck, a reminder of why she started the craft store—to promote her own jewelry and others’ crafts. She’s been running 18 Friend Street for about a year and a half, having opened on February 11, 2016. She started the store with a total stranger, but now it’s just Coleen and she works 7 days a week for 12 or 15 hour shifts. Her store is filled with a variety of trinkets ranging from giant Fortune Cookies to her own seaglass jewelry, to X-ray ornaments.
Can I organize this counter while we’re talking? I’m so A.D.D. Eighteen Friend Street is the name of the store, and Wicked Cool Seaglass is my jewelry business. (In March, they expanded the store) We did it so quick and with very little cashflow because we just roll over what comes into the store. We don’t have anything on credit, which is kind of cool because people think they can’t do things because of money, and it hasn’t really been an issue for us, and we put a lot of thought into how we buy things, and how we get things in.
There’s 3 criteria; one of them is local, which is my first and most important one, and I try to start with local people: Local to Amesbury; local to New England. But I really start here and kind of work my way out; so if there’s something I really want and I can’t find it in Amesbury, I put feelers out. And people come to me, and people reach out to other people, and we make contacts that way. Most of my artists in here are word of mouth.
My second criteria would be nonprofit. I like working with nonprofits—we have quite a few of them in here right now. We just reached out to Coastal Connections in Amesbury, and we’re selling some stuff made there, which is nice. We work with the Northeast Arc; we sell their jewelry here, it’s called the Shine Program. And then we have some nonprofits, like a museum sells those suncatchers I have in the window, and all the money goes back to them. We had Useful Glass which was a program that helped men and women get jobs. So if they were unemployable and they couldn’t get jobs anywhere else, they could go there and have a resource for work. I loved their mission, it was not as close as I’d like to keep it, but I really liked what they were doing. That’s in Boise, ID. It’s far away, but their mission was so powerful that I really wanted to bring that here. It’s the glasses—it’s all wine bottles. Unfortunately though they lost their grants about a month ago, so they’re closed, they’re not making them anymore. It was very sad. I’m kind of looking for another nonprofit. I like nonprofits, I like working with them, it’s my feel-good thing.
And my third one is small business. I like a small business that’s just getting started, that’s kind of struggling, if they have a good story. For me, when I’m writing a check that’s helping someone pay their rent or get their kid horseback riding lessons, or (a vendor who’s been here since we opened) told me they were taking all the money that they got to put a downpayment on a house, those things are huge to me, and I love doing that. I love giving someone the self-esteem that they can use to get to that point, not just financially.
My kids, I don’t even know what they look like anymore, they come here to see me. Which is fine, because that’s okay when you’re running a business, that’s what you have to do. And my friends are here until 1:00 in the morning, changing up a wall for me, or climbing ladders and hanging stuff from the ceiling, and helping me rearrange things.
Both my daughters help out. My son’s coming in today actually. My poor husband. He definitely does everything.
We do a fundraiser every month. We try to decide on someone or something that wants something, that needs it. This month we’re doing shoes to buy kids to go back to school. We’re sellling raffle tickets for different things in the store. Every $35 that we raise we’re buying a giftcard with to Famous Footwear. So the kids can take their giftcard and go pick out their shoes. What they want. And I feel like it’s big for teenagers to go back to school and have shoes on their feet that they like. Because they don’t always get that. I’ve got to reach out to Famous Footwear and see if they’ll put a 20% off coupon with each giftcard, so then it brings down the cost a bit more. I haven’t done that yet, but I think they will, because I’m pretty persuasive. Every time we get $35 we put a shoebox in the window. We started this 2 days ago, we have 9 giftcards we can buy already. We put it on Facebook yesterday explaining the whole thing, and I threw up some pictures the night before, so as it stands right now we’re able to buy 9 giftcards.
When your business is successful, you give back to your town, it’s just what you do. To give you an example, somebody came in and they wanted jewelry made. And this is like my favorite story ever. So he actually came here to bring peanut butter for the Spread the Love campaign. He contacted me before he came, he’s not from around here, and he said ‘I’m gong to bring you peanut butter, can you make me some jewelry while I’m there? Can I bring you some seaglass, do you do that?’ I said, I do. So, him and his wife came, and they contacted me before and said ‘what can we do while we wait for you to make it?’ I asked them what they like to do, and it turns out they like to golf. So I sent them to Amesbury Country Club, and they play golf while I’m making jewelry. And then they call me and they say ‘how late are you open? We’re going to go to lunch somewhere. Where do you recommend?’ So I gave them a list of places, and they said, ‘where would you go if you walked out of your store right now?’ And I said I would go to the Ale House because my daughter is working.
So they were like, ‘that’s where we’re going to go.’ They called some friends not from Amesbury and went to the Ale House. My daughter was their server, so they asked for her. They tipped her well. She took that money and took a couple of her friends, and they had drinks at Crave.
And I’m saying this because the money just stayed, it stays right in our community. And then you pay taxes on your businesses or whatever, and where does that money go? It goes back into your streets and your roads. And when these stores stay open, all that money just rolls right back over into your community, and that’s why it’s so important to have businesses in town, and have small businesses. And for me, I get that tenfold because not only does that money stay in my community, but it goes to my friends’ kids for their school clothes, or somebody’s rent or it constantly rolls over. And that’s the thing that people lose sight of; the businesses in this town pay for your kids to play sports, and we all pay it back into this community.
If everyone did that, if everyone stopped and spent $20 at a local store, these stores would never go out of business. But for me, we’ve been lucky, the store’s been very successful, we have people in here every day, as you see my family comes in: My daughter brings me coffee, my son’s here to help me. And that’s big.
I’m so grateful every time someone walks through my door.