Vaillancourt reveals their new logo to wholesale accounts at their Atlanta, GA showroom during the January market.
Beginning March 1st, 2018, Vaillancourt Folk Art of Sutton, MA will be re-opening their retail gallery to celebrate Christmas year round. This relaunch is timed as their branding has been updated to reflect the direct focus on Christmas—including a new logo that prominently displays a Victorian Christmas tree and their name. Although the corporation will still function as “Vaillancourt Folk Art” the branding will drop the “folk art” phrase as the term no longer accurately describes the company.
“When we opened nearly 35 years ago, it was during the bicentennial when Americana and Folk Art was all the rage,” reflects Gary Vaillancourt who founded Vaillancourt Folk Art with his wife Judi in 1984. “Our focus then was wholesale and trade shows. Judi, along with family and friends, would make furniture, folk art paintings, and our chalkware before loading it in a truck and selling them at retail shows not dissimilar to the ‘craft fairs’ of today.” Today, the wholesale and retail landscape has drastically changed. Wholesale business is conducted at Vaillancourt’s showroom in Atlanta, GA while retail has been split between their brick and mortar store in Sutton and online.
In 1987, Gary and Judi moved from their home’s basement into a historical house in Sutton where they opened their first retail store. The store, “Vaillancourt Folk Art & Friends” focused on selling custom, historical furniture, along with working directly with well-known artists of the time. “We’d have the likes of Christopher Lamontagne, David T. Smith, and Eldred Wheeler represented in our store and would regularly have them do personal appearances and signings.” Gary continued, “the focus of our own chalkware, ornaments, and dinnerware was really secondary.” During this time all retail in America had changed which led to nearly half of Vaillancourt’s wholesale accounts closing. “After September 11th, most of the mom-and-pop shoppes closed—these are shop owners who were older and didn’t need to deal with the headache of retail. In addition, all of the ‘big guys’ had massive changes and focused on low quality, low cost, high margins.” In 2007, Vaillancourt sold their historic farmhouse location and moved to a 10,000 sq/ft space within the Manchaug Mills (a small village still in Sutton, MA).
When a guest walks into our store during Christmas, their eyes widen. The decorations, the music, the atmosphere, it’s a wonderful diversion from the world around us. There is no reason that this feeling shouldn’t be available every day for those who still want to ‘believe.’”
“The marketplace has really created the product that we sell today,” says Luke M. Vaillancourt, Gary and Judi’s son, who joined the business full-time the same year as their move. “We can’t sell the same products that the big guys sell and compete with their price. It was clear that we had to focus on what we had control over—our high quality chalkware and ornaments.” Still selling to accounts around the world, Vaillancourt has made strategic decisions in where to sell. “Our product is fine art, which is the main reason we decided to drop ‘folk art’ from our branding. No one knows what folk art is, and those who do don’t associate it with what we make—purely on its definition,” commented Luke. “When you see our product in curated collections of museums, on the shelves of the highest quality stores in the country, you know that it’s gone beyond a ‘casual craft.’ What’s more is that our mission is to create a fine art quality collectible that will withstand the test of time and be passed down throughout generations while instilling a feeling of youthful wonderment through the joy of Christmas and help start a tradition for your family and friends.”
The decision to re-open the Vaillancourt retail gallery to focus on Christmas was an easy decision to make. Judi Vaillancourt, who designs each chalkware piece also purchases the product for the store and decorates along with her team of incredibly talented staff. “When a guest walks into our store during Christmas, their eyes widen. The decorations, the music, the atmosphere, it’s a wonderful diversion from the world around us.” Judi continued, “there is no reason that this feeling shouldn’t be available every day for those who still want to ‘believe.'”
When the retail gallery completes their annual after-Christmas closure for inventorying product and “re-grouping” it will re-open with more Christmas than usual for the off-season. “Don’t get us wrong, we’ll still make Christmas special when we kick off our annual Christmas Opening with the introduction of our 29th annual Starlight Santa, but our goal is to make the rest of the year inspiring through decorations and the splendor of Christmas.”
Vaillancourt Folk Art is located at the Manchaug Mills at 9 Main Street in Sutton, MA and, starting March 1st, is open seven days a week with extended hours that start Black Friday and last through Christmas Eve. Their main events outside of Christmas is Premier Number Weekend (their annual release of the new Cahlkware collection, with low numbers available) starting March 9th, and their annual Collector’s Weekend (where collectors from around the country converge on the retail gallery for a weekend of lectures, painting workshops, and more) starting April 27th. While Vaillancourt prepares to celebrate 35 years of business in 2019, they recently recognized two employees that have worked for 20 years and one that has been with Vaillancourt for 30 years.
Vaillancourt Folk Art is also available online at https://valfa.com. For more information, a comprehensive history video is available via YouTube.