By Kyle Stucker
Hampton Union, May 13, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Marilyn Rishkofski is closing her store, Art Experience in Hampton,
after 33 years in business. [Ioanna Raptis photo]
HAMPTON — It became real for Marilyn Rishkofski when she saw her computerized mat cutter go out the door.
Rishkofski, who turned 70 last year, had been contemplating closing her store, Art Experience, for some time. It really wasn't until she began selling some of the shop's high-tech equipment earlier this month that the magnitude of moving on from the business and baby she's poured everything into over the last 33 years really struck her.
"It's so bittersweet," said Rishkofski. "I knew it was time. I knew it was time to make a change."
Art Experience, a retail art and custom framing business, has been a downtown Hampton staple for the past five years since Rishkofski decided to uproot the shop from the Greater Manchester area to a quaint little space on the Seacoast.
The decision turned out to be the best for her, as the store's original locations in Amherst and Bedford never had a sidewalk and weren't located in a walkable area filled with residents and business owners who would pass by or stop in just to say hello.
The couch and coffee machine in the rear of the High Street storefront became a go-to space for customers and neighboring businesses alike, one of several small, community-centric areas in a town without a community center.
Some in the area told Rishkofski they didn't think Art Experience would "make it after a year" when she first brought it to Hampton. There was a perceived high business turnover in downtown at the time, although the store ultimately was one of the key "new" businesses that helped begin a period of stable renewal and resurgence in Hampton.
Rishkofski said it was the people who helped make that happen, and the people is what she'll miss most as she moves from the retail world into a semi-retired life that she plans to spend painting, staying active in her church and clubs like the Hampton Rotary, and enjoying time with her family.
"It's really been a really good space for me," said Rishkofski. "I wish we could've moved the store here sooner. I've been at several locations, but this one turned out to be the most fun."
A lot is still "up in the air" for Rishkofski, as in addition to selling off Art Experience's inventory in anticipation of a May 23 closing day, Rishkofski and her husband are also selling their home of 17 years, which is located just down the street from the store.
Rishkofski plans to stay in the area, though. She said she also doesn't plan to leave the art world completely behind, as she'd like to open a small art studio and art brokerage firm somewhere in the area under the Art Experience name.
"I want to get away from retail," said Rishkofski. "I want to go back to what I did in my beginning. I haven't painted in years."
A party is planned to celebrate Art Experience's last day and to thank the surrounding business community and regular customers, according to Rishkofski. She said the "personal relationships" are what small businesses are "all about," and she said it's important for her to thank those who have helped make her dream possible over the decades.
"I really will miss the social aspects of things," she said. "There's uncertainty, but it's all good stuff. New directions are good."