For decades, the Fantastic Umbrella Factory in Charlestown has been a one-of-a-kind shopping destination for visitors young and old, and now, under the ownership of David and Linda Turano, is as impressive as ever. Housed on the same property as its original farmstead location dating back to the early 1800s, the Factory is rich in history and full of surprises.
The main attraction is a cluster of shops offering a variety of unique gifts and trinkets. Small Axe Productions, opened by Mr. Turano and friends Jack Wright and Peter Esak in 1974, is adorned with the products of crafty and skilled artists, namely, the stained glass work of Wright, blown glass of Esak and pottery of Turano.
Jewelry, clothing, tapestry, musical instruments and hand-crafted gems from around the world also fill the shop. Other stores include Frills, an emporium of beautiful clothing, jewelry and gifts; the General Store, featuring candy and toys and fashioned after the original Umbrella Factory store; and Axiom, selling vintage eyewear and locally-made organic candles.
Alongside the eccentric shops is a sight not to be overlooked: the Umbrella Factory Gardens, operated by talented horticulturists Patrick and Erin Shellman. A walk through the gardens and collection of greenhouses, which display an array of gorgeous plants and flowers, is a peaceful, enchanting experience. Lovely perennial flower gardens and many interesting species of trees (like the Umbrella Pine and Dawn Redwood) are scattered throughout the property. Also on the grounds, and a popular attraction for children, is a pen of friendly animals: a few goats, emus and chickens, and a plethora of ducks, all of which can be fed by visitors.
Because you are bound to be hungry after perusing the shops and admiring the gardens, Small Axe Café (a BYOB establishment) offers modestly priced meals to suit every appetite. “Chef Mark Pedola and his partner Gino Turano serve up some of the best meals in Rhode Island,” enthuses David Turano. From vegetarian and fish to poultry and beef, all of the dishes are organic and all of the products local. (Many of the vegetables are even grown on site.)
The Fantastic Umbrella Factory’s charm, beauty and curiosity make it one of Rhode Island’s hidden gems. A fun, unique experience for the entire family, there is bound to be something new each time you visit. “We are working hard to make the Um- brella Factory an enjoyable and affordable destination for locals and visitors alike,” says David Turano. Although you probably won’t find too many umbrellas, the Fantastic Umbrella Factory provides an alternative shopping experience with uniquely pleasant surroundings. 4820 Old Post Road, Charlestown. 364-6616.