A newcomer to the Westerly gallery and shopping scene, The Beach House is already making a splash with locals, summer residents and tourists alike. The gallery-boutique opened at 12 High Street this past February and is filled with paintings, furniture, handmade jewelry, coastal-themed pottery, nautically-themed gifts and other unique items mainly crafted by local artists.
Founder and proprietor Laura “Lo” Hopkins decided to open The Beach House partly due to her “love for everything that is beach and art,” but also to fill a previously vacant niche in the area retail market. Her goal? To exhibit and sell pieces by local artists and artisans whose works embody that trademark Rhode Island oceanside aesthetic.
“The local artists got me going and inspired me to start the business; they are all tremendously talented, and all of them are featured on our website.”
The process of locating and cultivating relationships with area artists was already familiar for Laura. “I have rental properties that I’ve decorated, so I had experience seeking out these types of items. I found myself constantly having to drive to other places to find them, and realized that Westerly was missing this specific type of store. I wanted to bring Watch Hill to Westerly… but also make it affordable. When people ask me if there’s a sister store in Watch Hill, I know I’ve hit the mark with my selection.”
The store offers merchandise at various price points to suit a range of tastes and budgets, so there’s something sure to delight every customer. You can find a cute beach bag for under $20, or a stylish-yet-durable Ella Vickers sailcloth bag for over $100.
The Beach House made its debut during the yearly “slow time” for most coastal Rhode Island businesses, but Laura says she has received great support and feedback from Westerly residents over the winter, in addition to customers from neighboring towns like Watch Hill, Weekapaug and Quonnie. She notes that the quieter winter pace was beneficial in giving her the chance to iron out any kinks inherent in starting a new business, but traffic flow has definitely increased dramatically with the arrival of the July fourth weekend.
Laura is constantly changing the art in her store and hopes to host receptions and other art-related events in the future. Current local artist offerings include photography by Ardie Harrison, beach-themed or watery landscape paintings by Karl Saila, Lora Cobden, Patty Nunes and Ron Dabelle (many of local South County vistas like Beavertail in Jamestown), rustic-chic furniture painted by Molly Silva, beautiful handmade jewelry by Design By Neringa as well as Rebecca Leonard of Fuschia Bloom Studio and pebble and sea glass creations by Wayne Swan.
Other items for sale at the Beach House make wonderful gifts, décor pieces, accessories or souvenirs, such as: silvery bowls, platters and utensils by Beatriz Ball; trays, frames and other home accents by Mariposa; whimsical or location-specific printed MFH pillows (displaying Weekapaug or Watch Hill coordinates, for instance), an array of fish and seashell-themed home décor items, Paddywax artisan soy candles, drinkware by Rolf Glass and mugs and bowls by SBT Pottery.