A Milford mother and daughter have each opened up shops in Milford, one in Walnut Beach and the other in downtown Milford. Elizabeth Wright recently unveiled her Beach Gallery at 2 Broadway, and her daughter, Lauren (Wren) Wright-Harris has taken over Artifax at 17 River Street.
The two shops are as different as most mothers and daughters are.
The Beach Gallery is so close to the beach shoppers can smell the sea air, and inside is the color of sunshine, with bright walls, colorful art and shiny jewelry.
Artifax, being downtown, is more likely to offer the aroma of coffee from Café Atlantique and the smell of downtown bustle than the smell of the sea.
It’s definitely beachy at the Beach Gallery, which is the latest of shops to be added to the offerings at Walnut Beach. Wright has been active in Milford politics long enough to have seen efforts to turn this once forgotten part of the community into a thriving art district.
With the nearby Fine Arts Gallery, restaurants, SoBoBo Art Gallery and more, there has certainly been progress, and Wright said she’s happy to be part of that.
“I wanted to do something that was different, that would educate people and help people still mourning the area,” she said, referring to many years ago, when Walnut Beach was a bustling summer beach hot spot.
Three years ago Wright retired as a history teacher and started pondering what her last career would be. A painter and artist, she then spent a little time gathering up her courage to open up a shop that would carry her paintings, detailed poster-like historic maps she creates, plus works from others, like jewelry, candles, sea glass, scarves, salt scrubs, sea shell sculptures and more.
Last week, after about three months in business, she walked through her little shop by the sea, chatting with a woman who had come to collect a unique table created by resident Edgar Berban, a local artist who runs a business called Rock Doctor. A solid marble sailboard topped a driftwood base, creating a piece that the customer just couldn’t walk away from.
The shop owner smiled, happy to be in the midst of art and a happy customer.
The shop is about art and history, Wright said. The posters she created from paintings she modeled after postcards reflect Walnut Beach from days gone by, and other parts of the city too, like Woodmont.
Inside Artifax, the colors are more earth tones — browns and blacks — reflecting the arts and crafts from far-away farmers and crafters, purchased through a program called Fair Trade.
Wright’s daughter, Wren, was working in an office for a while, and then she decided to take over the downtown shop formerly owned by the late Anne Solomon. Wren even met with Solomon’s husband to glean information about how his wife had run the shop, to learn her goals and preferences, so as to continue her work.
“It was important for her to keep it international and simple,” Wren said.
Of course Wren added items to bring her own touch into the shop, like incense, children’s gifts and more jewelry.
She has worry dolls, handcarved statues, wall hangings, items for meditation, and more.
The shop carries many items from Indonesia, Asia, India, South America — mostly countries and areas where people are struggling. The business model is based on Fair Trade, which is an organized movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability.
“Fair Trade goods are just that,” according to the Fair Trade website. “From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.”
Wren said, “That’s why the prices here are reasonable.”
And so far so good for Wren. She said she’s paying her bills, and even though the economy isn’t what it might be, there have been many good days and even some very good days when the place “was swamped.”
And if you’re in one of the shops, there’s a chance you may spot mother or daughter visiting the other — even though they are, in a sense, competitors.
Wright was downtown this past weekend hanging the closed sign in front of her daughter’s shop door for her after a jam packed Oyster Festival shopping day.
“It was a good day,” Wright said. “Good, but long.”