PITTSFIELD -- Donna Todd Rivers is serious this time.
For the second time in two years, the downtown Pittsfield entrepreneur has decided to close her popular craft store, Bisque, Beads & Beyond! on North Street.
Last year, Rivers changed her mind. This time, she says the decision is final.
"What’s different this time? The stars are aligned," Rivers said. "A lot has transpired in the last year."
To summarize briefly, her longtime store manager, Alexis Jones, who has been with Rivers in various enterprises for some 20 years, is retiring at the same time the store’s current one-year lease is expiring. These events have also happened to coincide with an interest Rivers has in giving back to the community.
Her interest in community involvement began last year when Rivers ran for City Council for the first time. One of seven candidates for the four at-large seats on the 11-member council, Rivers finished a close fifth, 16 votes behind fourth place finisher Barry Clairmont.
"Running for office totally changed me," Rivers said. "I realize that I really want to give back to my community, and that I really want to be involved.
"It frees me up to get more involved," she said, about closing the store that she opened 11 years ago. "And that is really what I want to do. It’s the next chapter of my life."
A former attorney, Rivers recently helped form a new group of downtown merchants that meets periodically to discuss mutual interests.
"I’m not sure if it’s that or look for a position that I would be best for that I can give back to the community and make a contribution," she said. "But I know my heart is in serving the community. Every day when I wake up it’s the driving force in my life."
Rivers opened Bisque Beads and Beyond! on Pecks Road in 2003, before moving to North Street five years ago. July and August are her busiest months, and Rivers said she plans to keep the store open until Aug. 30. She may stay open until the first weekend in September for a "tag sale-ish sale" if all her inventory isn’t sold by the end of next month.
"I’m in this crazy place where I’m in the busiest two months of my business, and I’m trying to close at the same time," she said. "Everything has to go including the pencils in my desk."
Bisque, Beads and Beyond! specializes in four areas, pottery, painting, beads and jewelry, and Rivers plans to continue some of those activities in different formats.
Beginning in September, Rivers will continue to hold adult canvas painting parties and related events in a first floor space she rents beneath her current store on North Street.
She imports her beads directly from the Czech Republic, and intends to take that portion of the business online and sell them wholesale. Other businesses have expressed an interest in carrying her jewelry, which Rivers produces herself. She’s hoping to find a buyer for the business’s pottery section.
Rivers said Bisque, Beads & Beyond! is profitable. But to continue to grow the business on North Street, Rivers said she would have to add another 1,000 square feet in addition to hiring a new office manager. She could have also moved the business somewhere else, but referred to that option as "unwieldy" having been through it before.
Unlike last year, Rivers is sure she won’t change her mind about closing,
"Oh, goodness no," she said.
Is she sure?
"Please hold me to it."
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