20 South Shore brands to support this National Small Business Week

·13 min read

Hi, y’all! My name is Mary and I’m a Texan living in Massachusetts. I’m the full-time Quincy reporter at The Patriot Ledger and part-time lover of all things small batch, handmade and passionately built.

This National Small Business Week, I wanted to highlight 20 South Shore brands I've profiled through my Uniquely Local series. For more than two years I've been traveling the region to meet, profile and admire artisans on the South Shore of Massachusetts. From jewelry making to crafting to small-batch baking, I’ve met entrepreneurs who have dedicated their lives to creativity.

This series highlights the best the South Shore has to offer and opens the doors to a simple, sustainable and more local way of living. Enjoy!

Uniquely Local is a series of stories by Mary Whitfill highlighting the South Shore’s farmers, bakers and makers. Have a story idea? Reach Mary at mwhitfill@patriotledger.com.
Uniquely Local is a series of stories by Mary Whitfill highlighting the South Shore’s farmers, bakers and makers. Have a story idea? Reach Mary at mwhitfill@patriotledger.com.

Crafts are king for owner of Duxbury's Beachcomber Creations

These days, lifelong crafter Denise Miller is channeling all of her energy into Beachcomber Creations, a two-year-old business through which she sells upcycled oyster shell ornaments, wreaths, keychains, garland, ring dishes, wall art and more.

She finds all of the shells on her own, either by walking the beach or home shucking oysters from Island Creek in Duxbury.

"I can't walk on a beach without picking something up and, when we had our dog, I was on the beach everyday," she sad. "I just can't not look down ... We live in the best part of the country for it."

Read her story: Duxbury woman behind home décor business is the true queen of crafting

From family tradition to South Shore favorite: The story of Marie's Italian Cookies

Marie Durante and Francesca Waddell are the mother-daughter duo behind Marie's Italian Cookies, a brand that sells traditional anise cookies their family has made for generations.

Durante hand-makes every product – anise cookies, lemon-dipped cookies and newly added biscotti – in a commercial kitchen in Randolph, and Waddell runs the website, social media and wholesale accounts. These days, even Waddell's 10-year-old daughter is in on the action.

Read their story: Italian tradition shines through family recipe

'I feel very lucky': Young Cohasset baker pursues his passion

Alec White, 29, is the baker, delivery driver, web guru and business manager for Alecco Bakery, a 2-year-old endeavor that has quickly wormed its way into the hearts of South Shore bread connoisseurs.

He started with a classic loaf of country white bread, and sold eight loaves in his first week. From there, he created his own sourdough starter, began milling his own flours and experimented endlessly with different recipes and add-ins. He introduced pastries to his lineup, started selling at farmers markets and started doing order-ahead pickups at local businesses. It wasn't long before his bread was selling faster than he could make it.

Read his story: Cohasset's Alecco Bakery is a dream come true for local bread-maker

Quincy woman creates heartfelt keepsakes through custom embroidery

In the front room of her Quincy home, Allyson Yorks has transformed a small space into a bustling embroidery studio where she turns ordinary items into customized keepsakes with logos, names and monograms. She started Click + Stitch Embroidery on a whim about two years ago, and has turned it into the go-to shop for anyone looking to make a gift extra special.

"For a while this was just an expensive hobby," Yorks said with a laugh. "But things really took off at the start of the pandemic."

Allyson Yorks, of Click + Stitch Embroidery in Quincy, loads a design into her stitching machine on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
Allyson Yorks, of Click + Stitch Embroidery in Quincy, loads a design into her stitching machine on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.

Read her story: One stitch at a time

Whimsy abounds with Tiny Kitchen Cookie Company

A recently refinished, modern kitchen in Weymouth ia home to the colorful, messy and whimsical Tiny Kitchen Cookie Company.

From the get-go Jenn Lordan Leslie said the act of cookie decorating came naturally, but it took time to develop her own style. Some bakers use detailed earth tones, others take a minimalist approach and others still, like Leslie, lean toward bright colors that spark joy.

Read her story: Colorful, whimsical desserts come from Weymouth's Tiny Kitchen Cookie Company

This Milton florist gives back

In her Milton backyard, Jenn Goonan has spent the last several springs and summers planting a variety of flowers, perfecting her gardening and sharpening her arranging skills to make colorful bouquets. And she's gotten good at it.

"This summer I had an abundance of flowers, way too many for just myself, friends and family, and I thought, 'Maybe this is a new way to give back,'" she said.

That season of abundance led her to create Cheers to Flowers, through which she gives a bouquet to a local senior center or nursing home for every one she sells.

Read her story: Milton florist donates a bouquet to seniors for every order she fills

Salt & Branch candles are made in Quincy

Melissa Mengel launched Salt and Branch in January 2020 as a website to only buy other people's goods. Today, they also sell a line of candles Mengel hand makes in her Quincy home.

It wasn't a seamless process, she said, and she spent time experimenting with different scents, essential oils and waxes before settling on soy wax and oil blends she feels are clean burning and not overwhelming. Through her experimentation, she said she gained the confidence to market a local, quality product she was proud of.

Read her story: Quincy woman's candle company thrives in first year

Art of making paper revived in Marshfield

It's a lost art not many understand, she said, but Marshfield's Erin Merchant MacAllister said it was as if her life led her directly to the unique and complicated hobby of creating paper from natural fibers. An artist for as long as she can remember, MacAllister stumbled upon a papermaking class while studying at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts in college. Then, her grandfather offered his basement to serve as her sprawling studio.

Marshfield artisan Erin Merchant MacAllister makes paper by hand from raw materials including tree and plant fibers, banana peels and seaweed.
Marshfield artisan Erin Merchant MacAllister makes paper by hand from raw materials including tree and plant fibers, banana peels and seaweed.

Read the full story: Art of making paper revived in Marshfield

Clay earring business reinvigorates Rockland mom's creativity

Jessica Nicholson runs a small business called J. Lobes, through which she makes increasingly popular polymer clay earrings. She does all of her work at a small desk in the corner of her bedroom during her kids' naptimes and in the middle of the night – mixing her own colors in a Kitchen Aid mixer near her bed, cutting out each shape by hand and baking them in a toaster oven she keeps plugged in under her desk.

Running a business from a single tabletop while two kids run around isn't for the faint of heart. But she says she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's a little unorganized, but it's been working for me and it takes the pressure off," she said. "I really take my time and put a lot into it. I like keeping it small batch. It feels special and inclusive."

Read the full story: 'It's like I re-found myself'

'It reminds of the Colonial era'

Claire Hassett lives in a 200-year-old home with original wood beam ceilings, works partially out of a 19th-century, two-story barn and is just as happy to open a window and listen to birds chirping as she is to throw on a podcast.

But where her true appreciation for history and tradition shines is her artistry: weaving.

Claire Hassett, owner of Barn Door Arts in Hanover, uses a loom to weave towels, table runners and more from cotton and linen.
Claire Hassett, owner of Barn Door Arts in Hanover, uses a loom to weave towels, table runners and more from cotton and linen.

Read the full story: Artistry meets history for Hanover weaver Claire Hassett

The story of Halifax's Sweet Mama Sauce

Halifax resident Joe Ethier has put his own fresh spin on a once-niche product that has exploded in popularity and saturated the market over the last five years.

His three hot sauces all bear the Sweet Mama Sauce name but are distinctly different.

The original is sweet and has a unique flavor Ethier prefers for avocado toast, eggs and breakfast potatoes. The Black Label is made with habanero peppers and isn't overly spicy. It also lacks the fruit-forward flavor that comes with many habanero sauces. Ethier likes it on fish tacos. The Hots Mayo he puts on sandwiches, burgers and roasted vegetables.

"I really love seeing people's reactions to it. As soon as they taste it they say, 'Wow, I've never had a hot sauce like that,'" Ethier said. "That immediate reaction – they know exactly what they want to go home and put it on – makes all the hours and work worth it."

Read the full story: It's getting hot in here

Braintree artist brings whimsical, childlike illustrations to life

Molly Fabiano, a mother of two and fulltime graphic/web designer, has launched her own digital illustration side business bringing to life the whimsical, childlike images that define her as an artist.

Fabiano's process starts on physical paper — a rarity for a digital artist. She likes to use pencil to sketch rough outlines of an item or character on computer paper, then scans it onto her tablet and uses ProCreate to add color, smooth edges and define details.

Graphic artist and illustrator Molly Fabiano of Braintree uses her computer and tablet to create whimsical characters she hopes to someday publish in a children's book.
Graphic artist and illustrator Molly Fabiano of Braintree uses her computer and tablet to create whimsical characters she hopes to someday publish in a children's book.

"(When people see my work) I hope they remember that young, fun childhood. The world is anything but light right now, and I struggle with sharing my lighthearted, punny artwork in this atmosphere, but if we all stopped doing that, the world would be darker," Fabiano said. "It's a release for me, but I hope it also brings five seconds of joy to someone else."

Read the full story: Molly Fabiano brings whimsical, childlike illustrations to life

Hanson woman turns precious memories into floral artwork

Hanson's Erin Slayton has been uses her Instagram and website, pocketofsunshine7.com, to find her creative groove. The "self-proclaimed fashionista" started by making colorful, expressive jewelry, which led her to experiment with flowers, resin and other materials.

These days, she uses floral preservation and a love for the natural world to preserve memories from previous events such as prom, weddings and funerals.

Joy in bloom: Hanson woman turns precious memories into floral artwork

Weymouth pen turner finds his passion in wood and ink

For the last 25 years, Albert LaFrance has spent countless hours handcrafting plastic, acrylic and wooden writing utensils in a studio above his Weymouth garage. He uses dozens of kinds of wood and other materials to make hundreds of types of pens, from simple instruments to those with elaborate themes he says are one of a kind.

Albert LaFrance, of Weymouth, with a few of his hand-turned writing instruments at the Weymouth Farmers Market's first artisan fair in August.
Albert LaFrance, of Weymouth, with a few of his hand-turned writing instruments at the Weymouth Farmers Market's first artisan fair in August.

Now 68 years old, the New Bedford native first picked up woodworking as a hobby when he moved to Weymouth in 1979. At the time, adult education classes in town taught woodworking once a week, and LaFrance would go with a friend to build clocks and furniture for his children.

When the classes ended in the late 1990s, he started building his own collection of tools and eventually bought a pen-turning kit from a magazine.

The rest is history.

THE WRITE STUFF: Weymouth pen turner finds his passion in wood and ink

Jackie Ranney turns beach trash into artwork

For the last two years, Jackie Ranney has dedicated her art and creative process to advocating for the Earth's oceans. The art she's made since she moved to Hull in 2019 – large, sometimes abstract pieces – are made completely of materials she finds littering the state's beaches.

From bottle caps to plastic bags, beach balls, lobster tags, fishing nets, rubber gloves and more, she takes the waste discarded carelessly in the water and on the shore and transforms it into works of art that highlight the pollution disaster going on just below the surface.

FROM TRASH TO TREASURE: Passion for environmentalism, ocean cleanup spurs work of Hull painter

Ashley Hanson finds beauty in every part of the ocean

From the crashing waves and gritty sand to shells and sand dollars on the beach, the coast is a constant source of inspiration for the burgeoning Weymouth artist and her new small business, Salty Hands.

Salty Hands was born last fall, months after a lockdown-driven spurt of summer creativity found Hanson and her nieces painting shells they found on the beach near their family's Maine vacation home. After one day of painting, they put a stand at the end of the driveway and sold colorful seashells for $3.

SALTY HANDS: Weymouth artist creates ocean-inspired decor

Duxbury artist turns chemistry background into passion for glassblowing

To make a piece of hand-blown glass is to understand a dozen-step process that incorporates chemistry, physics and endless patience. The molten hot glass — which is 2,100 degrees when it comes out of the furnace — must be constantly turned as to not droop, never get so cool it cracks and handled with delicate precision.

Glassblower Rebecca Potash, of Duxbury, shapes molten hot glass on the end of a blow pipe.

To make a piece of hand-blown glass is to understand a dozen-step process that incorporates chemistry, physics and endless patience. The molten hot glass — which is 2,100 degrees when it comes out of the furnace — must be constantly turned as to not droop, never get so cool it cracks and handled with delicate precision.

It's an expensive, excessive and not exactly safe hobby, but Rebecca Potash of Duxbury says her business, K+ Glass, is where her passion truly lies.

In science, potash is the name of potassium-rich salts that were popular in glassmaking from the 10th to late 16th centuries. The chemical notation for potassium is K+.

UNCOMMON CRAFT: Duxbury artist turns chemistry background into passion for glassblowing

Beach Plum Floral celebrates 10 years in business

Jill Landry is celebrating the 10th year of Beach Plum Floral, the event florist she runs in Marshfield. What started as a front yard hobby has evolved into a flourishing business with 11 employees in the busiest season, which runs from June to September. Beach Plum specializes in floral installations and statement pieces for weddings and other events.

"It's a far cry from just centerpieces on a table," she says of her work. "We have a very garden-ish style, it's very lush and organic. We love to support local farms and growers, so anything seasonal we absolutely love."

BEACH PLUM FLORAL: Marshfield florist spreads color, passion for nature across New England

Hartwork Cookie Co. in Plymouth sells 'artwork from the heart'

Stepping into Jessica Brainsky's humble home kitchen, you'd never know it's where edible artwork is made.

Her white oven can only bake 12 cookies at a time, her Kitchen Aid mixer sits off to the side and there's no sign that the middle-school-counselor-by-day spends dozens of hours each evening and weekend making and hand decorating intricate sugar cookies that wouldn't be out of place on any Food Network baking show.

Brainsky is the sole baker, decorator and project manager at Hartwork Cookie Co., a small business she started last summer in her Plymouth home.

HARTWORK COOKIE CO.: Plymouth cookie baker, decorator sells 'artwork from the heart'

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This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Uniquely Local profiles South Shore MA artisans and entrepreneurs

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