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BUSINESS PERSPECTIVES: Stockbridge storefront beats again with Whispered the Heart

The unique shop offers special wares and crafts made in the Berkshires.

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Stocbridge — For residents and tourists, there is a new kid in town. Whispered the Heart opened May 8 at 36 Main Street, in the site formerly occupied by An American Craftsman Gallery. The unique shop is appropriately named as it is located in the “heart” of the town and the center of Berkshire County.

But, don’t let its small, 700-square-foot space fool you; it is chock full of unique and one-of-a-kind pieces—bird houses, artwork, scarves, candles, jewelry, and home goods—that, for the most part, are crafted in Massachusetts’ Berkshires.

During most of her adult career, owner Donna Steinert worked as a nurse and vice president for a dialysis company in the northeast, stressful positions to say the least. In 2019, while on a vacation in Italy, she saw her habitual neck pain dissipate and related it to the first two-week holiday she had ever taken in her life. When Steinert returned home, she gave notice to her employer that she would be leaving her job at the end of the year. Then the pandemic hit. Using that time to get in touch with her creative side as a sterling silver jewelry designer, as well as a candle and soap maker, all the stars aligned for Steinert when the Stockbridge storefront became available. “It was meant to be,” she said. “We walked into this space, and, within a week, we had signed with the landlord and got the lease.” That was in February of this year.

Donna Steinert sets out sterling silver jewelry she crafted. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

Together with husband Erik Steinert, the Lenox residents aim to make the space a showcase for local designers and artists. “Our vision, from the beginning, was to be a Berkshires-based store,” Donna Steinert said. “We’ve traveled around, and a lot of people carry local; local being Hudson, N.Y. [and] Chatham. I thought I wanted to do the map of [Berkshire County] in Massachusetts and really, truly be Berkshires based.”

The couple slowly began filling the shop with one or two local artisans, and now close to 85 percent of the store’s wares are made locally, she said. The Stockbridge setting was perfect, being situated centrally in the county. Main Street evoked beloved childhood memories of the couple’s youth and special dinners at The Red Lion Inn, making opening day “a dream come true” for the Steinerts. “We’ve had the Norman Rockwell painting of Main Street in our dining room since we were married,” Erik Steinert said of the past 14 years. “So, we’ve been looking at our store the whole time we’ve been married.”

Donna and Erik Steinert said they found the perfect spot for their local craft shop on Stockbridge’s Main Street. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

The name, Whispered the Heart, pays homage to the quote penned by William Arthur Ward and shown prominently on the store’s back wall: “’It’s impossible,’ said pride. ‘It’s risky,’ said experience. ‘It’s pointless,’ said reason. ‘Give it a try,’ whispered the heart.”

The name of Donna (pictured) and Erik Steinert’s new shop, Whispered the Heart, stems from a quote penned by William Arthur Ward prominently displayed on the boutique’s back wall. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

Natives of the town of Lenox, the Steinerts networked to find the artists featured in the shop. “We’re still growing so our hope is that we will be 100 percent Berkshires based,” Donna Steinert said. Works displayed by out-of-area artisans are from small businesses, she said, with the shelves void of items from generic wholesalers.

“We’re not looking for artsy, craftsy things but more higher end, very unique items—ceramics, fused glass, painters, photographers,” Donna Steinert said. With limited wall space, she is seeking out artists focused on prints but is “open to a lot of different things.”

Artist Kris Galli’s works are featured on the walls of Whispered the Heart. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

Donna Steinert creates all the soaps, candles, and jewelry. The store features artists such as Julia Rose, a legally blind painter who crafts large three-dimensional works, and Natalie Tyler, who has a statement piece on global warming displayed at the United Nations. Leif Steinert, a cousin and local tree surgeon, is also featured with his hand-carved bowls and spoons.

“People should not feel intimidated to stop in,” Donna Steinert said. “If it’s a fit, it will work great. And, if not, there’s probably somewhere else that it will fit for [that artist].”

Whispered the Heart is open daily at 10 a.m. and closes at the end of foot traffic. Artisans interested in displays at the shop can contact the Steinerts on the shop’s website.

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