About seven years ago, Suzette Donnelly decided to take up one of her lifelong ambitions and started to learn the art of stained glass. She instantly fell in love with the practice and began selling pieces she made, eventually entering the vendor show circuit throughout New Jersey.
"I found myself amidst a small percentage of people that actually crafted their items. People were looking for quick deals and low-cash items. The things I had were starting at $25 and up, so sales were not that great. Plus, putting that amount of glass in transit you'd often get a crack if the piece wasn't wrapped perfectly," she said.
Donnelly started selling some of her work to friends and family members through Facebook. Then, about three weeks ago, she embarked on the next phase of her practice and opened Suzette's Stained Glass Studio and Gallery at 168 Main Street in
"It's doing OK after three weeks, about what I thought," Donnelly said. "I'm in this for the long haul. I'm getting good feedback and responses from people."
The West Milford resident boasts original stained-glass pieces, repairs on stained-glass windows, hand-crafted items from consignment artists and even offers classes on the art of stained glass.
"I teach all beginner classes," she said. "My intent is not to be in competition with the big places that do the custom work in churches. It's more of a mom-and-pop atmosphere here."
As of right now, Donnelly said she has four students and is "meeting a lot of nice people." Her classes cost $110 for 12 hours of instruction and the 12 hours can be divided up any way the student desires.
"At first, I had a schedule of classes, but I decided to modify it," Donnelly said. "For example, if you want to learn, when are you available? I'll be here, I'm here anyway. It's a 12-hour class spread out however you want, barring some of my obligations and whatnot. Really, there's no set schedule of classes. It's whoever wants to learn, I'll work it out with them."
Donnelly also offers studio use for any of her students.
"Anybody that I'm teaching can come in and use some of my supplies," she said.
The mother of two sons, a 19-year-old and a 15-year-old, said that she is still working on building inventory and wants her store "to be a nice place for people to come, buy gifts for people and to order items that they have always wanted." However, by her estimation, it's up to the residents of Butler to make that happen.
"Hopefully, the people of Butler support it," she said. "A lot of people come in and say, 'This is wonderful for Main Street,' but I hope they come back and remember me with gift-giving and stuff like that," she said. "If they want nice stores on this street they have to be supported."