PEPPERELL — Business has been surprisingly good this year for Diane Cronin and her Covered Bridge Country Store.
One of her best summers ever followed closure and demolition of the Chester A. Waterous covered bridge. The store’s pre-holiday season has been excellent.
“People were concerned about my business, but it picked up right after the stock market downturn,” she said.
As noted on Cronin’s Web site, the multi-level store is a “reproduction post and beam structure connected to a large 120-year old Victorian home in the rural countryside” of Pepperell.
The old-fashioned store handles everything from souvenirs and memorabilia to “big ticket” antique dolls.
“You wouldn’t think $300 to $500 dolls would go, but some people have wanted one for a long time and just decided to do it. People buy a lot of sentimental items,” Cronin said.
Memorabilia, coupled with an emphasis on local craftsmanship, have propelled Cronin’s business forward for six years. She carries items such as painting done on roof slates from old homes, old wooden apple crates and many types of covered bridge collectibles.
Case in point, her work as a member in conjunction with the Pepperell Business Association (PBA) to sell covered bridge plaques to raise money for the PBA.
“I am, after all, the Covered Bridge Store,” Cronin said.
She’s been experimenting for the past three years with a wide selection of designs in anticipation of using salvaged wood when the bridge was torn down. When the PBA-sponsored project began to formalize, she presented samples from several Pepperell artists and companies, including Dan MacDonald, Suzanne Kellogg, Bob Cebula and Nita Casey.
The first product her store produced is the Covered Bridge Commemorative Plaque.
“The first run sold out in two weeks and a team of local artisans is very busy keeping up with more,” she said. “The plaque sold out in about two weeks, but we’re taking orders and more are almost ready.”
As previously reported, Joe Radwich is cutting bridge wood in the shape of the bridge.
Each plaque takes about 45 minutes of work by several craftsmen to make enough for the Christmas demand, Cronin said.
“I chose Paul Keating to do the graphics work for the custom stamps on the back of the plaque and to do the marketing,” she said. “I prepared the wood by cleaning, painting, stamping and sealing. The Pepperell-based business, An etch in Time, did the engraving (it is not pen and ink work). Then it came back to me to do the final touch-up by painting some areas of the artwork by hand and sealing the finished piece,” Cronin said.
More covered bridge designs using the salvaged wood are almost done, she said, and will be available next year.
“I’m a purveyor of memories,” the former high-tech operations manager said. “I like to take a back seat to put the local artists out in front.”
Other holiday gift ideas available in the store that benefit town fund-raising efforts include the Pepperellopoly Game by Parks and Recreation and Church Steeple Etching by the Community Church.
Covered bridge plaques are on display for ordering at the Town Clerk’s Office, the Spa, Enchanted Florist, Tick’s Boutique and Cronin’s store.
For more information, call 978-433-8808, 978-433-3232 or e-mail email@example.com. The store is located at 34 Tucker St.
“Store hours aren’t important,” Cronin said. “This time of year, I’m just open.”