Collective forms into partnership

Village Gift Store aims to be art hub

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Payne Chassen, left, and Bill Steinhardt stand outside the former In the Mind’s Eye building in L’Anse. The Village 104 Collective next door will expand into the building and change its name to The Village Gift Store.

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to state the amount artists pay to display artwork at the store is $1 per day.

The Village 104 Collective is expanding into the building next door, formerly the photography shop In The Mind’s Eye, and will be changing its name to The Village Gift Store.

Payne Chassen, blacksmith and owner of the Collective, is being joined by her boyfriend from Virginia, Bill Steinhardt, in order to renovate and expand the the shop into 102 N. Main St. in L’Anse.

“Two years ago, we met when I saw her post some of her art on Facebook,” Steinhardt said. “I loved it, and I bought it from her.”

The work was a bouquet made of hand-forged steel and reclaimed glass.

The two struck up a friendship online, and Steinhardt moved to the area about three months ago to join Chassen in the new venture.

Steinhardt has experience as the shop steward at Nova Labs in Reston, Virginia, and specializes in blacksmithing and metalwork.

The renovations to the new property include tearing out old walls and putting new drywall in, building custom displays, adding sliding doors, refinishing the original maple flooring and eventually reconstructing the storefront’s facade.

“We’re making it look nice and fresh,” Chassen said.

The current functions of the space in 104 N. Main St. will be moved over to the new building. Chassen and Steinhardt plan to preserve the current requirements, $1 per day and 16 hours of volunteer time staffing the store, for artists to put their items on sale in the shop.

“You shouldn’t have to be a starving artist to be an artist,” Chassen said.

They also plan to expand the class offerings into two new, larger classroom spaces in the new building. They plan to host classes in tai chi, ceramics, glass fusing and more.

“We’re going to have special watercolor classes for the developmentally challenged,” Chassen said. “We’re just going to expand on what I’ve already started.”

The space in 104 Main St. will be turned into a handmade chocolate, candy and ice cream shop. There is a large door joining the buildings, and they share a stairway.

Chassen said the buildings were originally constructed by two brothers. They plan on using the four apartments upstairs as short-term rentals for hunters, fishermen and snowmobilers.

When the weather improves, Steinhardt and Chassen have received permission to have “First Friday Fires” in front of the shop to demonstrate blacksmithing techniques.

With the help of an intern — Bryan Welsh, an artist and student from the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College — the southwest side of the new building will be covered with a mural.

“He’s going to help us get it on the side of the building,” Chassen said.

There is a contest for the design of the mural. Nautical-themed designs can be sent in until March 31 for a chance to be selected for the wall. More details are on their Facebook page.

“We’re being embraced by the community, and we’re grateful,” Chassen said.