One Mercantile is, for owners Abby Webster and Andy Pruhenski, the perfect synthesis of their shared interests in design and craftsmanship, their Berkshire upbringing, and their entrepreneurial and artistic training. This is a little home goods shop with a high aesthetics and high standards. “We focus on small-batch production and locally made goods. We are trying to create a unique shopping experience in Great Barrington, and we carry many things you won’t see anywhere else,” says Andy.
Their store, located on Castle Street in Great Barrington alongside two other reputable BerkShares businesses—The Mahaiwe and Castle Street Café—has been transformed since its former life as the Community Shop, and now boasts majestically high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and lots of natural light.
Abby explains that many of the goods they carry, such as stainless steel ice trays, enamel cookware, and a natural alternative to plastic wrap called “Bee’s Wrap,” are things that the couple wanted for their own use but couldn't find in the area. “I love those goods that are good for the environment and made by someone thinking outside the box—they are conscious in a way. We discovered some beautiful products and decided, ‘this stuff needs to be available.’” Andy adds, “They’re not all necessarily local to us, but they’re produced on a small scale and often by family-owned companies. So we know where they’re coming from, we know they’re quality, and we know we’re supporting independent businesses. We’re not just faxing in orders to big companies. We’re able to build relationships with a lot of our suppliers.”
Many of the goods in One Mercantile come from extremely close to home. “Part of the inspiration for opening the store was to give a lot of our talented friends a place to sell their goods,” says Abby. “And now we’re lucky enough to have a group of local artists who are doing stuff exclusively for us, including pillows by Cardi Montano, pottery by Arla Bascom, and wooden bowls, spoons, and cutting boards by Matthew Hart.” Abby and Andy even do some of their own production, “up-cycling” bottles into glassware and turning Mason jars into on-the-go drink containers dubbed “Straw Sippers.”
Now a year into their joint venture, Abby and Andy are grateful to everyone who helped them to get going. They “love trading BerkShares” within the community of shopkeepers that surrounds them. Andy says that the spirit of mutual support that underlies BerkShares “seems ingrained in us, since we grew up in this area. It’s great to be able to support all of our neighbors, as well as have them come and support us. It’s easy to use our BerkShares. We can walk out the door and get a cup of coffee at Fuel, a sandwich at the Co-op, or a gift at Tom’s Toys,” explains Andy. “Or chocolate covered blueberries from Rubiner’s!” adds Abby.
Andy is encouraged what he’s observed lately. “People are becoming very aware of where things are coming from and they’re asking, ‘Where is our money going? To a corporation overseas or to someone in our community who will use it again locally?’ This is happening most notably in the food movement, but I think people are taking that awareness into shopping at stores like ours, as well. If we can keep our money in circulation locally as much as possible, it helps all of us.”