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Spencer Van Etten Community Event Helps to Promote Local Business

By: Sandra Aguirre and Angela Poffenbaugh – Spencer, NY

Small local business selling items.
Small local business selling items.

When Elaine Cortright was only ten, her mother taught her how to knit and she instantly fell in love with the idea of knitting. Cortright didn’t know it at the time, but when she grew older, this passion would grow into a business of creating wool products.

Now, Cortright is 81-years-old and has been running her business,Woolcraft, for almost 30 years. While it’s remained a small business, she has sold her products to many people throughout the town of Spencer, NY.

Through her business, Cortright has created a range of products out of recycled wool, from hats, to vests, to mittens. One way she’s reached out to the community to sell these products has been through craft fairs.

“I do about 4-5 craft fairs during the year,” Cortright said. “Some in the spring and mostly in the fall.”

One of these fairs was last Sunday, March 5th, which the Spencer Van Etten community has been putting together for 19 years. Not only was it a place for Cortright to sell her wool products, but it was also a gathering for multiple small businesses as well.

Kermit Bossard founded this event and has been in charge of it ever since. He says that this is an opportunity for people to showcase the small businesses that they have.

“We have a lot of people in Spencer that have small businesses that work out of garages, but do good work” Bossard said. “What we have is a lot of people that have quality merchandise that most people in the community don’t know [exists].”

“So the idea is growing and for small communities it’s hard to find places that will allow you to sell and do it cheaply,” Bossard said.

This is the first small business event of it’s kind to be introduced to the town of Spencer. Bossard says that since it was founded, there has been positive feedback.

“Since we’ve had [this event], Candor has added one and Newfield is adding one,” Bossard said.

Customer asking Kelli Shepard for a special order.

One small business owner has been coming to the event since it first started. Kelli Shepard, owner of ‘Shepard’s Hook’, says she came to the event because she wants to promote her crocheting business

I’m not here to make money,” Shepard said. “I’m here to make connections to people that want something or need something. I just want to get my items out to where people like them and [will come] back for something else.”

Bossard says that this exposure is one of his goals for the small business that come to this annual event.

“This is a venue for exposure to people,” Bossard said. “I don’t care whether it’s Elaine here with wool or crafts or even the bank. It just gives people exposure they can build on. “

Cortright says that every year her business results differently from this event. Although she hasn’t seen huge monetary changes since the business started, she’s seen a variety of other changes.

According to Bossard, there haven’t been many changes to the event since it was first founded besides the amount of vendors participating in the event. However, he is considering making this event be two days instead of just one, to give businesses more time to showcase their work.

“We continually look at [the event] and say, “Ok, what needs to change?” Bossard said. “[For example], we’re looking at [a small business serving] barbeque chicken at the event next year.”

However, Bossard’s main goal by next year’s event is to find someone to take his place so he can retire.

“I have one [personal] goal, and that is to find someone to take my place,” Bossard said. “I’m more than glad to help but it’s time we had someone else in here doing this stuff.”

To learn more about Kelli Shepard’s story, check out the podcast below.

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