By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
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Crafty seniors unite to sell their handmade items

Photo by Chuck Kirman/Ventura County Star: Claudette York, left, sorts through clothing as group president Elaine Rieger shares a laugh at the Seniors Craft Shoppe in downtown Ventura. The co-op style shop is run by seniors from Ventura County.

August 4, 2008/Ventura County Star

Seniors who love working with their hands and keeping their minds sharp are finding great satisfaction at a shop in Ventura that specializes in one-of-a-kind crafts made solely by the area's older adult population.

"It proves that retirement need not be boredom but the beginning to pursue new interests and old hobbies," said Marian Anderson, 79, of Thousand Oaks.

A member of the Seniors Craft Shoppe in Ventura since 2000, she served as vice president and president before taking on the role as secretary of the group, which established the store in 1978 at 429 E. Main St.

'Time to enjoy crafting'

Now entering its 30th year in operation, the store remains strong with "many talented professionals and homemakers," Anderson said. "After raising a family and working, we now have time to enjoy crafting. It keeps us active and involved with others who have like interests. We don't make (a lot of) money but hope to make enough to support our hobby and shop."

The boutique is special because it gives seniors of Ventura County a place to display and sell their handcrafted items, said president Elaine Rieger, 71, of Thousand Oaks, a member since 2000.

"It allows camaraderie and an opportunity to volunteer," Rieger said. "We have items that are unusual and difficult to find elsewhere: aprons, snoods, scrubbers, dishcloths, wooden toys; we have lots of baby items, quilts, handmade soaps and many other items."

The business is an asset in Ventura because it generates taxes through sales, provides social contacts and offers unique merchandise not found in conventional gift shops, Anderson said. "And it is made in America."

The shop is much like a co-op, explained Claudette York of Ventura, publicity chairman. There currently are 28 members who all own the shop as well as an elected board of directors that makes decisions on how to run the business.

Membership is open to any resident who is at least 50, and dues are $20 a year.

"At this time, members must work in the shop 18 hours a month to earn their percentage of what they sell," said York.

The store is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"The more members we have," York said, "the less hours we have to work."

Many special gifts available

All items in the shop are made by hand and are top quality, making it a place to find a large variety of unique and special gifts, York said.

"I enjoy being part of this group because I like to make different crafts, which I can sell," she said.

"It is a good way to make a little extra money, be creative and make new friends. It makes all of our members feel useful in their retirement years, and we are all too busy to need Prozac."

There is not another store in Ventura or Santa Barbara like the Seniors Craft Shoppe, said Ginny Scotland, 81, of Ventura, a member for 16 years.

"We all work well together — men and women alike — and that is unique in itself," Scotland said. "We are a caring bunch of people that are happy doing what we do, and hope people like what we do. A lot of love goes into every baby sweater and afghan made dresses, hats, artwork, things for your home."

With an appreciation for one another's work, "we just love it when moms, grandmothers and other family members come in and tell us how much the recipient of a gift from the senior shop meant to them."

In an age when many parents work full time while maintaining households, "they do not have much time to make gifts for family and friends," Scotland added.

"So here we are the Seniors Craft Shoppe, a place where seniors have a place to show off their items, make a little money and make new friends," she said.

"It is important to Ventura to have a little shop like this to poke around in and find interesting things. That is why we have been here for 30 years."

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