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Tableware shop fills hole in downtown

GREAT BARRINGTON — When Abby Webster and Andy Pruhenski opened Sett, a specialty tableware shop, they wanted it to be completely separate from their six-year-old store, One Mercantile.

Abby Webster displays some tableware in Sett.
Abby Webster displays some tableware in Sett.

But Webster said when longtime customers walk into the new space, which opened in April, they comment that they can recognize Webster and Pruhenski’s distinct taste immediately.

“Modern relaxed? Modern casual?” Webster said, reaching for the right word to describe their style. “It’s not concrete and glass, but it’s not your grandma’s china, either.”

Webster said that filling the stores with things she and Pruhenski love involves hours of scouring the internet and traveling to shows where they can put their hands on the merchandise, which includes dishes, silverware, linens and more. She said they aim to stock a variety of local and global products, but the highest priority is stocking a variety of price points, so inventory is accessible to all, but with also more luxury options for those who want it.

Pruhenski said Sett fills the hole in downtown left when Mistral’s, a home goods store on Railroad Street that closed a few years ago. He said he and Webster had been hoping to expand their tableware selection for some time, and when the space on Main Street opened up, they jumped at the opportunity.

In a tourist town, Pruhenski said their businesses have been sustained by customer loyalty.
“Our customers at One Mercantile have come to realize that over the years, we try to make sure we cover a broad price range, but we try to make sure everything is good quality and good function and design,” he said. “But when it boils down to it, we buy what we like.”

Pruhenski said he’s been watching Great Barrington grow and change since he was a child. He recalls the downtown being a place full of grocery stores, hardware stores and insurance offices. He got his first retail job in Great Barrington at 14 and opened Threads, his first store on Main Street at 19. He said he’s been a small business owner ever since. Webster, a New Marlborough native, said she got into small business ownership after she met Pruhenksi, and has since used her background in photography and art to do much of the marketing and design work for the two businesses.

While some residents bemoan the seemingly increasing tourism in the area, Pruhenski said he never remembers a time when Great Barrington wasn’t a tourism town. The only difference, he said, is that as more and more people purchase second homes in the area, tourism has become a year-round phenomenon rather than a seasonal one.
And that’s good news for small business owners, he said.

“It’s a very, very long stretch, the winters,” he said. “If you’re only able to rely on summer business, you can’t survive and your business can’t survive. It’s definitely helped business quite a bit that we’re able to have people come through the door in January, February, March, the late winter and early spring when it’s very quiet, or used to be very quiet, and still is, but at least there’s enough to get us through.”

Still, Webster said they have plans to liven up the store for the holiday season.

Since Sett revolves around making tabletops beautiful, the pair has envisioned a series of arrangement and centerpiece-making classes paired with wine tastings and other events. Those plans will become more concrete as the winter months get closer, said Pruhenski.

As for future expansions in the works, the couple plans to focus their energy into the two sister stores they currently run, he added.

“It’s hard to say that [retail] is easy. It’s very, very tough,” he said. “It’s a tough thing to be in retail right now. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of hours, it’s a lot of expenses, and it’s definitely not easy, but I think you have to love what you do, and I think we’re going to stick it out.”

Sett is located at 276 Main St. in Great Barrington. The business is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, call the store at 413-717-4038.