In April 2011, Beth Ann Hanson opened The Happy Sunflower at a retail space somewhat hidden from the pedestrian traffic on Pickering Wharf. This February, she moved the whimsical store to her current location, where she’s seen a big uptick in business.
The shop’s gift items include candles, photo frames, ornaments, greeting cards and aprons. Half the items are handmade by Hanson herself, while half come from local artists she has mostly met at craft fairs.
“Carrying local artists’ work is a cool way to introduce them to a new market,” Hanson said. “I don’t bring anything in I wouldn’t buy myself or for someone else. Especially in an economy that’s not fantastic, people like helping someone local.”
Hanson said the support of her fellow businesspeople on Pickering Wharf is a key to her future and past success. The community will come together this Saturday, April 7 from noon to 3 p.m. for a free Easter egg hunt that Hanson has organized, featuring photos with the Easter Bunny and gift certificate raffles.
This summer and fall, the Pickering Wharf businesses will contribute to have live bands outside, and Hanson will run a children’s art class.
“I can’t wait when the season hits,” Hanson said. “It’s going to be surreal.”
Hanson started out making wreathes and ornaments for her neighbors after they noticed a wreath she crafted for her mother’s front door. She has spent 20 years in the craft industry, and has worked as a buyer for TJ Maxx and The Christmas Tree Shops. A big difference now, she said, is the personal investment required to run your own business.
“It’s crazy that I even have a store,” she said. “It really puts the fire in the belly to make it work. There are days where you don’t see anybody and can get down and worry how bills are going to be paid, then one customer comes in and turns it around.”
Hanson, who graduated from Salem State University and taught floral design there for many years, said the store survived last year through word-of-mouth, and continues to rely on people now and from her past.
“I think of the days playing ‘store’ with my friends and now I’m here,” she said. “A lot of people I played with then are contacting me now. Businesses come in and out so quickly it’s important for people to know you’re here and doing things for the community.”
As might be expected, Hanson enjoys the artistic side of the business the most, but she only has so much time in her day. She has less time in her current location to make crafts, which is why she’s invited other artists to sell their work from her.
“It’s a paycheck and you enjoy what you do, but the crafts are the fun part,” she said. “People come for my stuff and I’d like to have enough of it.”
Hanson is at the store every day, and will often stay late during summer weekends to accommodate demand.
“Some of us have been here forever, some of us haven’t,” she said. “I want people to come down and check us out. If people are going to come in, I’ll be open.”