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Pinch pottery showcase marks 25 years on Main Street in Northampton 

  • Pottery by Barbara Walch, of Thorndike, Maine, at Pinch Wednesday. Walch was one of the founders of Pinch in 1979.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Pottery by Barbara Walch, of Thorndike, Maine, at Pinch Wednesday. Walch was one of the founders of Pinch in 1979.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jena Sujat, who owns Pinch, in her Northampton store Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Jena Sujat, who owns Pinch, in her Northampton store Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pinch carries work by a number of local potters, including these pieces by  Michael McCarthy of Williamsburg.JERREY ROBERTS

    Pinch carries work by a number of local potters, including these pieces by Michael McCarthy of Williamsburg.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Offerings at Pinch, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, include pottery by Judy Jackson of New York City, photographs by store owner Jena Sujat, and maple bowls by Spencer Peterman of Greenfield.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Offerings at Pinch, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, include pottery by Judy Jackson of New York City, photographs by store owner Jena Sujat, and maple bowls by Spencer Peterman of Greenfield.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pinch, Main Street, Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Pinch, Main Street, Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pinch, Main Street, Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Pinch, Main Street, Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pottery by Eric Pardue. He is the newest artist to be featured at Pinch.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Pottery by Eric Pardue. He is the newest artist to be featured at Pinch.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pottery by Barbara Walch, of Thorndike, Maine, at Pinch Wednesday. Walch was one of the founders of Pinch in 1979.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Jena Sujat, who owns Pinch, in her Northampton store Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Pinch carries work by a number of local potters, including these pieces by  Michael McCarthy of Williamsburg.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Offerings at Pinch, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, include pottery by Judy Jackson of New York City, photographs by store owner Jena Sujat, and maple bowls by Spencer Peterman of Greenfield.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Pinch, Main Street, Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Pinch, Main Street, Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Pottery by Eric Pardue. He is the newest artist to be featured at Pinch.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

“I think one reason people love us is you can come in and buy a really interesting, unique, handmade $30 gift,” said Jena Sujat, who bought Pinch in 2006. The store carries more costly merchandise, from furniture and wall art to jewelry, but Sujat estimates that most items are less than $100.

This Friday, she will join with two of the store’s founding artists, Mara Superior and Leslie Ferrin, and former owner Donald Clark to celebrate a quarter century on Main St. The party, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m. during Northampton’s monthly Arts Night Out, is free and open to the public.

Sujat said the evening is intended “to celebrate all the artists we work with and all the artists we’ve worked with over the years, and all of the great customers that we’ve become friends with over the years.”

The party will also serve to spotlight two politically themed porcelain pieces from Superior’s “Obama Project.” One is a teapot, entitled “President Obama’s Tea Party,” and the other is a stylized rendition of the White House, “President Obama’s White House.”

Sujat said that she is featuring the pieces during the anniversary celebration as a way of acknowledging the work of one of Pinch’s founders as well as the store’s history.

Local potters the focus

The business was known as Pinch Pottery when it opened its doors in the basement of Thornes Marketplace in 1979. It was founded by three local potters, Superior, Ferrin and Barbara Walch.

In its early days the store sold pottery almost exclusively. Its selection has expanded to include jewelry and other art, but pottery remains the focus.

Walch left the business in 1986 and Superior left in 1999. Donald Clark joined Pinch as co-owner in 1990.

When Pinch Pottery began, the back of the store housed the Ferrin Gallery, which specialized in one-of-a-kind art pieces. In 1999, the Ferrin Gallery was separated from Pinch Pottery, and the store was renamed Pinch. Ferrin and Clark now run the Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield.

In 2006, Ferrin and Clark sold Pinch to Sujat, a native of South Hadley who has lived in Northampton for almost 15 years.

Sujat, who has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in business administration, worked in systems analysis for five years before deciding to switch careers and go into retail. She briefly worked for Zanna, a clothing retailer in Amherst, and then worked for four years as a buyer for Cedar Chest in Northampton.

Sujat said she often toyed with the idea of joining Pinch as a business partner, going so far as to discuss the prospect with Clark twice.

Nothing came of her interest, however, until 2005, when Cedar Chest was sold to a new owner and Sujat lost her job. Around that time she heard that Ferrin and Clark were thinking about selling Pinch. She began talks with them and worked with a bank on financing. Six months later, she was Pinch’s owner.

‘Hip’ style

Since taking over the store, Sujat said, she has chosen slightly different stock while maintaining a focus on items that are affordable and functional. She said she sees her style as more “hip,” and thinks she has brought a younger clientele to Pinch. She is working on rebranding the store by redesigning the logo and marketing materials, and said she expects to unveil a more sophisticated image in the spring.

Sujat buys nearly all her stock directly from the people who make it. While many are local artisans, she said, she also travels to shows across the country to scout out potential work. Pinch still carries pieces by founding potter Walch, who now lives in Maine.

Sujat said she looks for art that is “well-designed, interesting or beautiful. I really like innovation and I am often attracted to something because it’s new.”

Pinch underwent a remodel last year, Sujat said, with “a hodgepodge” of cabinets and counters making way for a custom-designed counter for displaying higher-end jewelry. In addition, the store’s carpets were replaced by wood flooring, and flower boxes were installed in front of the store.

Sujat has two year-round employees, Joyce Rosenfeld, who has been with the store for close to five years, and Jessica Markey, who has worked there nearly two years. During the holiday season Sujat hires several additional workers.

One of the artists featured at Pinch is jewelry artist Emily Rosenfeld, Joyce Rosenfeld’s daughter. Sujat said she has become the store’s top-selling jeweler.

“I am thrilled to help someone else make a living doing what they love,” Sujat said.

The staff gathers for monthly “Pinch dinners” at their homes, and Friday’s 25th anniversary celebration will offer a taste of those get-togethers: Sujat, Rosenfeld and Markey will each cook something for guests. Food will also be provided by Provisions, a Northampton wine, beer and specialty food store.

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