‘A magical kid emporium’: Art Always and High Five Books find a dream location

  • Charlie MacCallum works on a art project during a art camp offered at Art Always Summer Program, run by Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner and teacher at Art Always, which shares a space with High Five Books. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Minghan Levine tries to decide which Crooked Stick Pop to buy during break at an art camp offered at Art Always Summer Program. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner and teacher at Art Always, which shares a space with High Five Books, works with Charlie MacCallum during a art camp offered as part of her Art Always Summer Program. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ruby Theberge Goode, left, and Hannah Velez work on an art project during a art camp offered at Art Always Summer Program run by Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner and teacher at Art Always, which shares a space with High Five Books. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hannah Velez works on a art project during a art camp offered at Art Always Summer Program. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ainsley Bascomb, left, and Addie Mahon-Kolba work on an art project during art camp offered at Art Always Summer Program run by Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner and teacher at Art Always. The business shares a space with High Five Books across from Look Park in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lexi Walters Wright, owner of High Five Books, stocks the shelves while Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner of Art Always runs an art camp in the combined space in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lexi Walters Wright, owner of High Five Books, talks with Lyla Whitehill, 10, who had come to pick up the new release of “Clash.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lexi Walters Wright, owner of High Five Books, stocks the shelves while Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner of Art Always, runs an art camp in the combined space in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • High Five Books and Art Always in Florence, owned by Lindsay Fogg-Willits and Lexi Walters Wright, respectively, are sharing space in a building across from Look Park in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lexi Walters Wright, owner of High Five Books, greets Lyla Whitehill, 10, who had come to pick up the new release of “Clash.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 7/28/2021 8:51:42 PM

After finishing their art projects at the Art Always summer program, two girls make their way to a cozy corner of High Five Books and read eagerly until their parents arrive.

The art studio, owned by Lindsay Fogg-Willits, and the book store, owned by Lexi Walters Wright, are separate businesses housed in a communal space in Florence, but there is often a friendly overlap with their customers. Fogg-Willits checks in to see how the girls are doing, and later, Walters Wright crouches down to chat with them about the stories they’re reading.

This July marks a year since the duo moved from their previous location in Florence to their dream space, 141 North Main St., just across the street from Look Park. They also recently partnered with Easthampton’s Crooked Stick Pops, and have a freezer brimming with exciting flavors like Mango Peach and Vietnamese Coffee, and even have two delicious pops named after their own businesses, adding to the magic of their new spot.

Although they have been in this building for a year now, July marked the first month the businesses have been fully open to the public. They say the location is ideal.

“Just like what we’re seeing here,” Walters Wright said, referring to Fogg-Willits’ children, Lucy and Noah, as they sat side by side reading and drawing. “Somebody’s having a popsicle, somebody’s making a project, somebody’s reading a book. Parents are running into their friends, caretakers see one another, they come from the bike path right in the back ... Look Park is right here.”

During COVID-19, the two businesses took steps that helped them survive. Walters Wright moved her entire inventory online and offered curbside pickup, local deliveries and private shopping sessions. Fogg-Willits made weeklong art bags to-go for her summer camp, which kids could complete via Zoom if they wished. She also continues to offer a project in a bag each week that kids can complete at home, or under the tent outside of their building.

Although Fogg-Willits does miss many elements of the drop-in art that used to be offered, Walters Wright said, “in the meantime, the art-to-go bags are like a pandemic pivot that ... like curbside pickup, like delivery, like online shopping for us, we’re never going to get rid of ... because that actually turned out to be something that is really useful for families.”

A popular place

Zara Usman, 13, has been a High Five Books customer since she was 11, and said that she believes it is the store that sparked her love of reading. “I think I almost made my parents go broke with all the books I was buying (during COVID),” she said. She recently completed her first week interning at the bookstore.

David Daley, a local author, journalist and parent of 8-year-old Wyatt, described the space as a “magical kid emporium.” His son takes art classes, and they regularly buy books from the shop.

“When you can go 10 minutes down the street and find a magical spot like this, it’s tremendous,” Daley said. “The kind of creative art projects that they do, the caliber and the quality and the attention paid to the curation of the books in there is just amazing. They are paying attention to absolutely everything.”

The idea for co-retailing emerged when Walters Wright decided that after a 20-year career as a journalist and editor, she was ready for a change. She was doing a lot of virtual work, commuting to New York every week while her young son, Arlo, was at home, and although she loved her job, was ready to spend more time in Florence.

“I was spending these brief moments with people who I liked to be around... but wasn’t really living, living here. I sort of had a foot there, a foot here, and so I decided I was going to change careers,” Walters Wright said.

The bookseller, who also has a master’s degree in library and information science, knew as a parent how difficult it could be to leave the house with a young child. She wanted to create a space for parents to bring their children that books could exist in. “I needed a cornerstone to cement why people would actually leave their house to buy books, rather than just buy them online,” she said.

For 30 days after she left her job, Walters Wright took people who seemed to love their careers out for coffee, or on walks, so she could “pick their brains” and understand their career choices. Fogg-Willits, who was then operating Art Always out of the Brushworks Arts & Industry building and was Arlo’s teacher, was walk No. 3 in Look Park, coincidentally close to their current shared space.

Fogg-Willits loved her job, but had been in the same building for 18 years, felt lonely working solo, and was ready for change herself. On that walk, the women realized that Art Always was the experiential component that Walters Wright’s bookstore was missing.

“Our hypothesis was that art and books could co-exist happily under one roof,” said Walters Wright, “and it turns out they can,” finished Fogg-Willets.

“I also think the thing that we always hoped would happen by collaborating, was that people who came for the books might stay for the art, and people who came for the art might stay for the books,” Fogg-Willets said.

Overall, the two women have become great friends in their shared space, and have truly enjoyed the experience of being collaborators. “It’s fantastic,” remarked Fogg-Willets, “In all of its unknowns and stresses and fabulous elements. It’s great.”

“We have a lean but really hard-working team of people who are just so phenomenal. And we live in an area where people value what we do and that’s huge. That’s the hugest,” Walters Wright said.




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