Stockbridge — In the heart of Norman Rockwell country, the bright walls, groovy sounds and eclectic offerings at 7 Arts Gift Shop stick out from the traditional Americana on Main Street. It’s “a little bit irreverent, a little bit funny,” says owner Teresa O’Brient of Stockbridge’s premier retailer of vintage clothing, vinyl records and cheeky accessories. “You just have to laugh.” She and her husband, Alan, have curated a unique shopping experience for the thousands of visitors that come through Stockbridge each year.
Teresa and Alan, who were both born and raised in Massachusetts, met through the restaurant industry in San Francisco and moved back east to raise their family. The O’Brients were soon drawn to the character of downtown Stockbridge and bought Once Upon a Table, a cozy, 11-table eatery accessible only through a pedestrian alley called the Mews. Just as they were getting comfortable with their roles as business owners, a neighbor and long-time customer mentioned her intention to retire from the Williams & Sons Country Store. Teresa jumped at the opportunity to not only be the purveyor of penny candy and kitschy home goods but also to preserve the iconic Main Street store that’s provided as much cultural importance in its reliability to the town of Stockbridge as the Red Lion Inn. Suddenly, the O’Brients found themselves in retail.
The opportunity to reinvent 7 Arts fell into their laps by similar means. Teresa and Alan quickly noticed a trend in the Stockbridge shopping experience. While women found ease and delight in shopping at the clothing and jewelry boutiques, they saw the men “standing by the door checking their watches.” They saw a gap in the local economy and envisioned a way to cater to this demographic whose needs were unmet. So when the owners of 7 Arts came into the restaurant talking of retirement, Alan and Teresa decided it was time for another retail adventure.
The opportunity to curate diverse displays of vintage clothing and old records gave Teresa and Alan an exciting new outlet for their creativity. Alan loves coming across the music of his youth and sharing it with a new generation. As a store that specializes in memorabilia, Alan and Teresa think that 7 Arts plays perfectly into Stockbridge nostalgia, saying “it’s the best location for a store that’s peddling the good vibes of the 60s.”
Each new venture of the O’Brients started with careful consideration of the ebbs and flows of the seasonal Berkshire economy. They say that the key to their success has been digging into place and really understanding what the town of Stockbridge needs. They think that BerkShares play a role in meeting those needs. Whereas Williams & Sons and Once Upon a Table depend upon on seasonal tourism, 7 Arts is a destination store that appeals to a year-round clientele. “There’s a certain consciousness that everyone has to get the businesses through the winter and BerkShares reinforce that message,” Alan says. And by accepting BerkShares, Alan and Teresa are “sending a message to people that live here year round: We’re here for you.”