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dina varano – holiday night in the shop

As an apprentice to Dina Varano I have spent time in her studio (see previous posts here and here) and in her shop, where she sells her creations and other treasures from around the world.

C’mon in – we’re open!

The shop that bears Varano’s name is located in the historic town of Chester, on the west bank of the Connecticut River, with a picture-postcard Main Street. Chester merchants host a series of events throughout the year and I’ve been lucky enough to attend two of these events, including Holiday Night earlier this month.

Shoppers came in all sizes, some as colorful as the ornaments on display {click images to enlarge}

Imagine a Currier & Ives Christmas scene come to life – minus the horse drawn cart – but complete with buoyant neighbors, Christmas carolers, festive decorations, children playing in the street, a tree lighting ceremony, contagious celebratory atmosphere and candle-lit luminaria lining Main Street.

You never know where you might find Holly and Mistletoe at Dina Varano

Chester might be a small town, but the residents come out en masse to support their local merchants – the streets and shops were overflowing with people and cheerful conversation.

So much to see in Varano’s shop, so little time!

Dina chats with a customer

Why am I going on and on about this small town event (even if it is in a quaint New England town)?

Handcrafted ornaments for sale at Dina Varano

Aside from the fact that there were worldwide crafts to ogle and Varano’s complete line of jewelry, I was witness to an important feature of selling hand crafted work that I want to share. Hmmm…many of you might even already know this, but it bears repeating, really it does.

Could that be daMuse in the mirror? Maybe…

My job on Holiday Night was to take pictures and document the event for Dina. I tried to melt into the background (not an easy task in a small space), moving quietly around the shop, observing the steady stream of customers and neighbors who stopped in to share a glass of wine, pick up a gift or speak to Dina about a custom piece of jewelry they wanted her to make for a loved one.

Dina Varano

In the four hours that I was there, I marveled at Dina’s energy and enthusiasm, spending time with almost every person who walked through the door (and there were dozens), often greeting them with a hug, always greeting them with a smile and kind words.

{click to enlarge}

I heard stories. Stories of how Dina had created the perfect gift for a fiance, wife, mother, daughter, lover. Stories of how Dina had taken a beloved piece of jewelry that had lived out its useful life and found a way to incorporate pieces of it into a new design so that it lives on. Stories of how Dina’s shop has been a go-to place to shop in Chester for 15 years.

Dina has built a loyal following of collectors, customers and friends – not only because of the quality of her work – but also because she has spent years cultivating relationships with customers in her community and beyond. Down to earth, authentic, at-the-ready with ideas and flexible, she is a great example of how to build trust and loyalty, and I’m not just saying that because of my apprenticeship.

I walked away that night understanding that I had just witnessed success.  Success built on the foundation of good work and good relationships. I strongly encourage you to continue to develop relationships with your customers and potential customers, whether they come to you online or at a brick and mortar shop. Everyone benefits.

What do you do to build relationships with your customers? Share a tip or two with us.

Santa’s helper restocks the tree!


Next up for this apprenticeship? Watch as daMuse helps Dina polish her web presence. Coming soon…

Click the button below to help me get to my next apprenticeship in Washington, DC. Many thanks to all who have donated!

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3 Responses to dina varano – holiday night in the shop

  1. Wonderfully rich, beautiful and inspiring post, Muse! Layers of content here, and worth rereading and contemplating. My fave: Your photographs and your magical handling of them as b/w and colored images feels almost cinegraphic, reminded me of (gasp) early Harry Potter movies- we sense the scene (b/w) and then focus in on the colored sections, as if we have an extra sense.
    Dina models what has and always will make a business successful. WIsh I was there, her shop is so enticing- but you, the Muse, were there so it’s almost as good. Lucky Dina, lucky us!

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