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Business Spotlight: For Art’s Sake

Waverly House owner celebrates 35th year in business

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Fine arts and crafts in Springfield aren’t limited to downtown and its First Friday Art Walk or exhibit galleries. In fact, for 35 years, Waverly House Gifts and Gallery has been offering work by local and national artists from its location on Waverly Street.

The gallery is located one block west of Glenstone Avenue, across Waverly Street from the Brown Derby International Wine Center. Eunice Wallar, owner of the gallery, says she never knows what each day will bring in terms of customers.

“A weekday could mean 20 or it could mean 10 – I just can’t predict,” she says.

Those who do stop by may be interested in purchasing art or they may be there to look and to chat.

“I might have several very high-end pieces go out on the same day, and some days I may sell things priced $50 and under,” she says. “You just can’t call it. Most retail is that way.”

Wallar celebrated her 35th year in business Sept. 9-10, and she invited the artists whose work she carries to join her for the festivities. Among those present were Crescent Dragonwagon, an Arkansas author signing the 30th anniversary edition of her cookbook, “Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread,” and Marie Scarpa, a California jewelry artist who makes it a point to visit Waverly House twice a year to catch up with some of her favorite customers.

“This is my best gallery,” Scarpa says during a break at the celebration. “We met at a wholesale show in 2008, and she really worked hard to develop a clientele for my work.”

Scarpa says she has a lot of collectors in Springfield, where she has been coming in April and September for 10 years, barring a hiccup during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scarpa’s jewelry designs are typically woven of fine gold, silver and platinum wire and decorated with colorful gems. They are statement pieces, recognizable from their metal flourishes and attention to texture.

Scarpa’s work has developed a following through Waverly House, and she credits Wallar for that.

“She has a very welcoming way,” Scarpa says. “Being in the Midwest, people are very friendly. She knows everybody, or if she doesn’t know them, she welcomes them as if she does.”

Dragonwagon, who is the author of 50 books, also has a longtime relationship with Wallar. Her visit during the anniversary celebration was the first stop on her tour for the rerelease of her cookbook, which contains recipes from the Eureka Springs, Arkansas, bed and breakfast she used to run with her late husband.

Dragonwagon’s publisher asked her where she wanted to begin her tour, and she answered right away: Springfield, Missouri.

Her choice met with some pushback, Dragonwagon says, recounting the conversation at the Waverly House event.

“I said, there’s a woman there, and she does an event like no one else,” she says.

The publisher looked perplexed, Dragonwagon says.

Dragonwagon’s a good storyteller, offering gestures and mimicking voices, and a crowd now has gathered to hear the punchline: “But … but …,” Dragonwagon sputters, imitating her rep, “Springfield’s not even a second-tier city!”

There are laughs all around. Dozens of customers and artists have assembled in second-tier Springfield, some from miles away, to experience a gathering of talent that would be rare wherever it might occur.

Waverly House artists are mostly from Springfield and the nearby region, though some work comes from elsewhere in the country or the world, Wallar says. It offers fine crafts, including ceramics, glasswork, carved and turned wood, fiber arts and wearable goods. It also has fine arts, with oil, watercolor and acrylic paintings, linocut and woodcut prints, mixed media pieces and sculpture.

About six times a year, the gallery has special shows in its upstairs galleries, and from time to time it hosts art classes.

Waverly House also has a Christmas room that is open all year, offering holiday ornaments and decorations. Wallar says there’s rarely a day that goes by when someone doesn’t stop in to buy an item from the Christmas collection.

Wallar says her regular customers keep the business going strong. She declines to disclose her revenue, though she notes the COVID-19 pandemic was a much smaller blow than she had anticipated.

“I was very concerned after we had to close for two months with the pandemic, but our loyal – very loyal – customer base came back and really supported us after that,” she says.

Wallar also appreciates her two regular part-time workers, Marlene Olglesby and Doris Doucette, both of whom are jewelry artists. (Three other employees help out occasionally and for special events.)

“I’m so fortunate to have a supportive staff,” Wallar says. “They’re very positive, very helpful, very knowledgeable about art.”

She adds that since Oglesby and Doucette are jewelry artists, they can speak knowledgably about the process. Wallar says she loves having conversations about arts and crafts with people who stop in, and she encourages her staff members to do the same, even when visitors are just there to look and not buy.

“It’s a bit of an educational process for people to come in here and learn about the art,” she says. “If you can relate personally to the artist and the art, that’s what’s important for folks and customers. We don’t just stand there and say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty.’ We try to talk with them about the piece.”

Wallar says she enjoys being a gallerist just as much now as she did when Waverly House opened in 1987.

“As long as I’m able to do what I’m doing, I’ll be here,” she says. “I thoroughly enjoy it. I’ve made a lot of friends throughout this business, and it’s a pleasure to come to work here each day.”

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waverlyhouse1@att.net

Thank you Karen Craig’s for a great article!

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