Seek the Unique

36383 Detroit Rd., Avon, OH 44011

440-934-5288

See www.frenchcreekdistrict.com for hours and other information.

FEATURE ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 11-28-02, By Tammy Stables Battaglia

``Crafts artisans have an outlet in new Avon store

This is a happy time of year for those who love arts-and-crafts shows.

They are being held every weekend in church basements and auditoriums in Northeast Ohio.

A new store in Avon, however, is now offering the wares of these seasonal shows - and then some - all year. Floral designer, home decorator and entrepreneur Julie Wolf decided Greater Cleveland needed a craft consignment store. So she created a place where local artisans peddle their wares to shoppers who appreciate the original.

She dubbed the store just that: Seek the Unique. The 2,600-square-foot French Creek District store in Lorain County is laced with everything from kitschy kitchen bag holders and homemade gag gifts to original watercolors, primitive pottery and elegant china sets.

Wolf brought the idea from her native Pennsylvania, where arts-and-crafts galleries are scattered two to a town or borough, she said. She would pop into the eclectic, creative stores to get a design fix as she traveled the Pittsburgh area as a flower wholesaler.

"I still loved to design and be artistic, so I'd be in consignment stops all over Pittsburgh," she said. "In Pittsburgh, they're everywhere. Here, they're not."

Look no further than Wolf's own creations to see why she appreciates the unique. Her specialty is painted furniture and, of course, flower arrangements. But her signature piece is truly creative. She stuffs large shadowboxes - some a foot tall by 2 or 3 feet wide - full of flowers aligned like block prints of color. Then, she seals the box with an antique window. The glass protects her design inside, which peeks out like true natural art waiting for a free spot on someone's country mantel ...

"I was always taught never to be afraid of anything: just do it," Wolf says, adding that typically meant - in the flower business - that she got stuck with all the intricate wreaths for organizations like the Masons. "They'd throw a picture in front of you and flowers and say 'There you go.' "

Wolf still travels to Pittsburgh to decorate four homes during the holiday season. But she said goodbye to the wholesale flower business when her husband's job transferred the couple here last December.

"I always wanted my own shop, but when you're in a good job . . ." she says, shrugging about the opportunity the move offered to fulfill a dream. "My husband said, 'You'll never find 10 people for your shop.' I've probably got 20 right now."

Some of those contributing objects include Nanette Reilly of Westlake, who creates rice bowls for $20. She fires bright glazes inside a bowl, whose sides curve like two cupped hands. A chopstick holder is built in. Glints of copper show through surface cracks of a piece of her Raku. She uses the ancient technique on a different bowl, which is literally burnt with paper to crackle deep cobalt glaze for linear peeks of subsurface color.

Other offerings include a Sheffield woman's rack of retired Longabarger baskets, as well as items with baby, safari and children's themes.

Wolf decorates the front of the store seasonally, currently highlighting holiday home-decor items.

"It touches everybody's interest and taste, and it's nice and bright," said Cheryl Palermo of Avon, who stopped to browse at Seek the Unique before eating at Helen's Kitchen, the diner next door. "The variety is good. She's got a lot of different things to look at."

"I think that vase is wonderful," says visitor Ellen Watkins of Avon Lake, appreciating a $28, 14-inch-tall glass cylinder decoupage by Shirley Panek of Westlake. The vase was decorated with a feathery palm leaf pattern and Romanesque cornice designs. A glass-topped table decoupaged to match sits nearby.

Flowers are a common theme throughout Seek the Unique. Strands of ivy, sheer chiffon ribbon, white dogwood flowers and iridescent bulbs flow over an $8, foot-square gift box designed as a keepsake for a lucky little girl or a new bride. Custom arrangements sit throughout ...''

Battaglia is a free-lance writer in Lake County. She may be reached at homes@plaind.com

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