A Clever, Crafty Name

Ripped from the pages of a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney movie script, there were very few more dumb ideas than creating a retail store that sold only Crafts in the 1950s.

You know the movie. “We’ll put on a play!” says one. “Yeah,” says the other. “And hold it in Dad’s barn and invite the neighbors. It’ll be a smash!”

Oh c’mon. Puhleeze.

What else? Planned residential communities with cookie cutter homes on Long Island and rural eastern Pennsylvania? Maybe named after the developer?

Jeepers.

Shop One was an innovative Rochester retail store where the inventory was wholly comprised of handcrafted work. Its only other directly competitive operation was America House in New York City, founded a few years prior by Mrs. Aileen Webb, a lifelong crafts supporter.

The four Shop One principals were three School for American Craftsmen (SAC) faculty: metalsmith John (Jack) Prip, woodworker Tage Frid, ceramist Frans Wildenhain and a former SAC student and jeweler, Ron Pearson.

Shop One opened quietly in January 1953 in downtown Rochester’s Old Third Ward and today called “Corn Hill.”

And for nearly a quarter century it persisted, albeit not always profitably.

Shop One’s name was a clever play on words. As with the term “Craft,” “Shop” could be understood as both a noun and a verb. “One” unambiguously demonstrated uniqueness and exclusivity.

And Shop One’s legacy yields two ironies. Beginning in 1968, the area surrounding Shop One’s longest venue (Troup St.) hosted a small, neighborhood craft fair that today attracts some 400 craft exhibitors and a quarter million visitors.

Second, 35 years after closing its doors, Shop One rose phoenix-like as Shop One-2 (pronounced “squared”) on the suburban RIT campus. Although previously there had been no connection whatsoever between the two, beginning in 2010 the relationship could not be more clear.

Opening on October 13th at the Bevier Gallery on the RIT campus is a new exhibition: “Shop One: Then and Now.” http://cias.rit.edu/bevier-gallery/

Check it out. The opening reception is 4-6 p.m. on Friday, October17.

And, if you’ve read this far, please “Like” the Frans Wildenhain Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Frans-Wildenhain-Creative-Commercial-American-Ceramics-at-Mid-century/125443280894663