Middlebury students and residents no longer have to travel to Shelburne, Vt. or look online to find merchandise from Elli Parr, a hand-crafted jewelry business.
The store’s new location at 48 Main Street in downtown Middlebury, which opened this past May, is the place for local jewelry-lovers to visit as it looks to further connect with the Middlebury community, according to Elli Parr owner Sara Nelson.
Nelson started Elli Parr Jewelry simply as a hobby nearly nine years ago while working full-time for a marketing company. She has always been artistic, but it was not until 2014, following the birth of her first daughter, that Nelson felt what she described as the urge to “create” once again.
She began exploring the arts of painting, pottery, interior design and eventually jewelry. Her passion for jewelry grew as friends and family expressed interest in her pieces, Nelson recalled.
Nelson started selling her jewelry through various home trunk shows, small markets and eventually social media. A few years later in 2021, Nelson made the decision to leave her full-time job and make Elli Parr Jewelry her primary focus.
Based on a couple of years of experience operating the Elli Parr shop in Shelburne, Vt., Nelson described Shelburne as a small town with a strong sense of community and incredible shop-keepers. Nelson said she gets that same feeling in Middlebury.
“The past ten plus years I would spend my summers driving through Middlebury to visit Lake Bomoseen and I was always so drawn to Middlebury,” she said.
After firmly establishing business roots in Shelburne, Nelson said, customers kept asking her “Where’s the next store?”
“I wanted to make sure I brought a new concept that was unique and welcomed,” she explained, in reference to the possibility of opening a second Elli Parr location.
Then, Nelson was presented with the opportunity to lease the space on Main Street for the Middlebury Elli Parr location. Elli Parr replaced Wild Mountain Thyme, a clothing, jewelry and knick-knacks shop that occupied the 48 Main Street location for over 45 years.
Unlike the Shelburne store, which is a multi-use space on the second floor of the Shelburne Inn where Nelson and the rest of her team spend a lot of time working on jewelry designs, the Middlebury store is both a retail shop and workshop space.
According to reporting from the Addison Independent, the Elli Parr stores have a “charm bar,” where customers can look through a selection of chains and charms, matching them up into a customized necklace.
Nelson opened both the original Shelburne location and the Middlebury store to offer customers access to Elli Parr’s brand as a small, handcrafted, local product business and to bring the community together.
“We opened our flagship store in Shelburne to offer our local customers more access into our brand and bring the community together,” Nelson said. “Local small businesses are the heart and soul of every town and we feel beyond grateful to be part of something like that. Our intention of our events is to bring people together and offer something unique and different.”
The products that the store carries are largely based on requests and feedback from customers, Nelson said. After hearing from parents that their kids often ask to come to their stores, the brand is planning to create larger kids areas in the store and more event offerings catered to kids, she added.
There is something for everyone at Elli Parr, according to Kirsten O’Connell, retail manager. The children love the “kids corner,” with jewelry catered especially toward children, teens-college students love the trendiness, adult moms, dads and grandparents enjoy shopping for gifts and tourists are drawn to the locally-made Vermont products.
“Between the college, Vermont tourists and the amazing locals, we want to not only carry Vermont handmade products that we are proud of and make the community proud of but we also want to curate local events and happenings making Elli Parr a memorable destination for everyone,” O’Connell said.
The store offers expanded shopping hours when there is an event going on in the Middlebury community, such as Fall Family Weekend, sporting events and special holidays, according Jaime Parmelee, lead sales manager of Elli Parr.
Nelson added that she is striving for Elli Parr to have a better relationship with the college, and that she would love for Middlebury students to work for the store. “I don’t want a big conglomerate; I want a community,” Nelson said.