In 2008, Tracy Stolese took a leap of faith. She had spent the previous 13 years as sales manager for Hall Communications, which owns WIZN, the Buzz, and several other radio stations.
“I was turning 40 and got the bug that I really wanted to try owning my own business,” she said. “Arabesque presented itself.”
The Shelburne village store had opened in 2000, so Stolese wasn’t starting from scratch. “I was very lucky the previous owner had done a really nice job carrying a lot of lines, so there was a great base,” she said. Unfortunately, Stolese’s timing wasn’t the finest. She bought the store at the end of July 2008. “A couple of months later, everything dropped out of the economy,” she recalled, “and I realized high-end bedding and china weren’t at the top of people’s minds.” Stolese began to diversify and added small gift items to the store.
A few years later the owner of Ink, Ink, which was across the street, asked Stolese if she would be interested in buying the building and moving her shop. Stolese didn’t want to move, but decided that gifts and stationery would be a good mix, so she purchased Ink, Ink and combined it with Arabesque.
“I really like the business community here,” she said. “It’s a nice, friendly place and Shelburne has a lot of customers who want to shop local.”
Although Arabesque has a website, Stolese does far more business in person. “I haven’t really had the time or devoted the energy to working on the website,” she confessed. “When you’re a small shop, there is always more you could be doing.”
Arabesque is open seven days a week. Stolese commutes from her home in Colchester roughly five days a week and is helped by three part-time employees, two of whom have been with the business for years.
Stolese believes the two parts of her store work well together. While she is proud of her inventory, she says her favorite part of the business is working with customers on invitations.
“It’s really fun and creative to help people put their vision on paper,” she said. While she particularly enjoys wedding invitations, she finds that all the parties and celebrations and even the sympathy cards are rewarding.
Arabesque is not Stolese’s only business. She and her husband, Mike, own the Burlington Wine and Food Festival, held every year at the end of June.
“We started it in 2010,” she said. “We are very lucky to have some people we pay to help out, as well as volunteers, but we do a lot ourselves.”
Starting her own business was a big step but Stolese hasn’t looked back. “It’s scary but I love it,” she said. “Hall Communications was a great company but I knew that if I didn’t do this, I would regret it. Ten years later, I sometimes miss the security of having someone else looking after paychecks and benefits, but I wouldn’t trade it.”
Stolese enjoys the diversity inherent in owning a store. “I like that it’s different every day,” she said. “There are so many aspects that you have to look after, like the buying of merchandise, bookkeeping and marketing. There’s always something. It’s always overwhelming, but the variety keeps it interesting.”