During the peak of the COVID pandemic last holiday season, Skaneateles Artisans owner Teresa Vitale found herself in a similar position to many other retail brick & mortar businesses – revenue waning due to a lack of customers who were appropriately social distancing at home and either reducing their purchasing or relying on e-commerce outlets.
Teresa never thought her creative necessity at that time would become a new line of business for her. But fact is, she moved well past pivoting, and has evolved, all the while managing to not only keep Skaneateles Artisans in operations, but to found “Tinsel Town Arts by Teresa Vitale”.
Tinsel Town Arts is a new line of custom decoration services that grew out of Teresa’s storefront decorations at Skaneateles Artisans when she designed and built a display of colorful and whimsical Christmas present packages stacked on top of each other and framing the front door entrance. This story doesn’t quickly end here though as evidenced by an event which would challenge her spirit – a young man recklessly driving a vehicle through the village and crashing into the display, destroying a majority of it.
Teresa acknowledges that “The gallery was not financially prepared for the challenges of being closed during the COVID shutdown.” She reached out to the SBDC at Onondaga Community College and Senior Business Advisor Frank Cetera for assistance navigating the EIDL and PPP applications in March 2020.
Over a series of conversations and advising sessions, Teresa was able to successfully apply for and receive both assistance packages – the EIDL loan from the SBA, and the PPP reimbursable loan from M & T Bank. Teresa kept the business operating with 110 artists’ work on display for sale on commission, and has emerged with the best sales totals for the month of May in the history of the business’s 14 years. “The SBDC and Mr. Cetera helped in the survival of Skaneateles Artisans. I would not have made it through COVID shutdown, without Mr. Cetera’s guidance."
Once Teresa had stabilized the Artisans gallery with SBDC advising and coaching, during the slow business time of the pandemic, and coupled with the driving accident incident, she recognized that she had been “given the opportunity of not only being able to start a new business, but also having a preexisting location where she can sell the art, making it all seem very possible and real.” Over the years, visitors to the gallery have always wanted to purchase the gift boxes that she created around the gallery – and now they can.
“Tinsel Town Arts by Teresa Vitale” began as a collection of beautiful handmade garlands, wreaths and decorative boxes stacked like topiary. Materials used for the decoration are designed to withstand the exterior elements and can be enjoyed for years to come.
During a site visit to the gallery store, the energy and enthusiasm that Teresa exhibited was palpable. One customer shared her thoughts that the visit “was so fun” as they walked out with a colorful glass platter carefully packaged for the return leg of a motorcycle road trip between Arkansas and Acadia National Park in Maine, demonstrating how much of a destination Skaneateles Artisans is itself within the destination village of Skaneateles.
Teresa is continuing to work closely with her SBDC Advisor to navigate financing and funding programs for the Skaneateles Artisans gallery. All the while making lemonade out of lemons and not letting the spirit crushing damage to her storefront display keep her down. With smiling faces visible from the freedom of masks, vaccinated against COVID, Teresa received some new pieces of woodwork from one
of the artisans on display, and greeted patrons both new and old. Some of the final words I witnessed from one of these long term supporters was how the gallery and the artworks within it ”feeds the soul”. This no doubt can be said for both the patrons and for Teresa herself, as she launches "Tinsel Town Arts” amidst a constant recognition of change.
To learn more about Skaneateles Artisans visit their website at www.skaneatelesartisans.com
Article published in the 'The Central New York Business Journal' on July 12, 2021
Frank Cetera is an Advanced Certified Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center located at Onondaga Community College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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