Photo: Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media
WEST HAVEN — Just as Tyler Newkirk was putting finishing touches on his popular Easter/spring gift shop and readying to open, non-essential businesses in the state were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At first I was relieved because I wanted me, my family and my customers to be safe,” said Newkirk, owner of Tyler Newkirk Craft Co. located on his grandfather’s B & B Farms
But then weeks passed, with no end in clear sight.
Loyal customers who say their spring décor isn’t the same without Newkirk’s unique goods, urged him to sell online – but he resisted until now – because Newkirk delights in people experiencing the store’s ambiance.
He will hold a Facebook Live sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, walking viewers through the shop and talking about his merchandise, much of it handcrafted by himself and others. The virtual shopping trip will be on his Tyler Newkirk Craft Co. Facebook page and will remain there for viewing at any time.
“At first I didn’t want to because I like seeing people,” he said, of taking the shop virtual. “It’s not really a money thing. I want people to see the store.”
Customer Margi Maher of Milford said she’s never missed one of his openings, as he remakes the store for every season, plus Christmas, and she will be there for the Facebook Live tour.
“You want everything when you walk through that door,” Maher said, noting Newkirk’s merchandise is unique. “It’s eye candy to me. You want to touch everything and he’ll let you.”
Marie Whelan of Hamden said she and other family members are ready to shop Saturday via Facebook Live.
“I love his shop. I’m happy he’s doing this,” Whelan said. “I like how it’s very different from a lot of modern decorations. They have more of a vintage feel.”
Shoppers who like what they see on Facebook Live can private message Newkirk for prices, other information and to order. Merchandise will be delivered or made available for curbside pickup.
While it’s not all about the money for Newkirk, he admits money matters somewhat because he has rent and other bills to pay. Newkirk is a senior and drama major at Southern Connecticut State University who loves decorating.
“I think its going to go well,” Newkirk said. “It’s kind of like a QVC thing. People are going to have a ball, I’m going to have a ball.”
Some of the items for sale are by local crafters, including fragrant soy candles by Lisa Adams, totes and hats by Jordan Gargano’s No Name Outfitters (Gargano’s proceeds go to charity), Beyond the Sea nautical crafts by Patricia Thompson.
“Plants that make your house happy,” Newkirk said. “Everything is colorful,” in the shop.
For those still in Easter mode, there are plenty of bunnies and chicks too – fake ones, of course
“Cute things you won’t find anywhere else,” he said.
Newkirk said he can pack stuff away for next year. The summer line will be displayed soon, then fall and Christmas.
Newkirk, who specializes in costume and design at school, said he learned about crafting and decorating from his three creative grandmas: Judy, Barbara and Paula — who continue to create with him.
His shop is situated on his grandfather Bob Newkirk’s popular B & B Farms at 668 Jones Hill Road.
B & B Farms is considered one of West Haven’s local gems, is visited by thousands in spring, summer and fall who feed the horses and sheep, buy flowers, eat ice cream and bask in the views and warmth of the Newkirk family.