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Updated: June 12, 2023 Shop Talk

Q&A: The vintage farmhouse vibe in Webster

A woman smiles amongst vintage goods and a plant Photo | MONICA BENEVIDES Sheri Putnam, owner of Burlap to Boards in Webster

At Burlap to Boards, a home decoration and gift shop on Main Street in Webster, even the furniture is for sale. Owner Sheri Putnam, together with her husband Bob Putnam and Design Coordinator Susan Krysinski, maintain an ever-rotating stock of farmhouse-styled merchandise that all but bursts off the shelves. Aside from the retail portion of the business, Burlap to Boards hosts regular craft nights, including cookie-decorating classes with Dudley-based Green Light Baking, holiday-themed door hanger project nights, and a charcuterie course. One of the most unexpected parts of the Burlap to Boards story may be that Sheri, who also runs a cleaning company, didn’t originally set out to open a retail store.

What is your vision for Burlap to Boards and has that changed since you first imagined the shop?

Sheri: My vision for Burlap to Boards was to open a quaint home decor/gift shop for people to come in and have a place to physically shop, versus just ordering online. Our vision hasn't changed, but like many small businesses, we have adapted to our customers' wants and needs, especially with regard to our ever-expanding inventory.

Is this your first business?

Sheri: This is not my first business endeavor. We own a residential/commercial cleaning and organizing business called Organize Me Clean, based in Webster. I was also working with real estate agents doing home staging, which requires quite a bit of inventory, and we started pre-staging homes in our office space, which eventually turned into our store.

Bob: We originally got this space for the cleaning business because, before COVID, the cleaning business was out of control. Then COVID hit and just wiped everything out. Sheri started getting into the real estate staging business, and we just started buying a bunch of stuff because the staging stuff is so hard to come by. Then she was actually starting to stage stuff in here so she could see what it looked like, and we went, “Wow! This looks like it could be a store.” It just kind of morphed into a store.

Your window displays are always changing to match upcoming holidays and seasons. How do you decide what to feature in the window?

Sheri: We make multiple trips to our manufacturers/wholesalers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as well as have a great working relationship with our local artisans. Taking all of that information and working with our amazing decorating coordinator, Susan Krysinski, we come up with window displays for the upcoming holidays, seasons, and special occasions.

It’s funny, because a lot of times we will shift and move something, and some of our regulars come in, notice the product has been moved, and it's something they might not have seen last time they were here. Rotating is really very important.

Bob: We go to Pennsylvania, we buy all the product, and we come back with a trailer full. Product is just literally everywhere. Over two or three days, the whole place has changed, and everything is out on display.

Why was Webster the right place to set up shop?

Sheri: We thought Webster would be a great location considering there wasn't a brick-and-mortar store like ours in close proximity.

How would you describe the style and overall vibe of Burlap to Boards?

Sheri: The style and overall vibe at BTB is more on the vintage farmhouse style with home decor and a variety of fun and creative finds for almost any occasion.

I've always liked the vintage farmhouse look; I have it at home. It leaned primitive in the very beginning, but it’s getting harder to find primitive-style products. Farmhouse is easier to find, and it comes in so many variations; a lot of people can incorporate it nicely. We pick out stuff we like, hope other people will like it, and get feedback from people who come in.

How do you connect with customers?

Sheri: Like most businesses these days, social media has become a mainstream way for us to connect with our customers. We primarily market on Facebook and some on Instagram.

Bob: We’ve done some local print advertising, but we didn’t get a lot of feedback on it.

What are some of the challenges you've learned from as a shop owner?

Sheri: Trying to stay up with the always-changing trends and fads and knowing our customer base so we can keep a steady flow of ever-changing inventory.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Correspondent Monica Benevides.

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