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Article Title: Quirky WindowsEdition: August 2001
Author: Walter Carpenter
In this age of megapixels and homogenized boxstores Montpelier businesses are still doing something the old-fashioned way with their window displays.
Instead of pasteurized displays offering little creativity Montpelier's downtown merchants are practicing the subtle art of turning their sheets of glass that face the passersby into a veritable collage of color, design, and humor.
Downtown Sightseeing With a DifferenceRambling around Main and State Street peeking into store windows is always fun. "It's almost a sightseeing thing to celebrate downtown," said Eric Bigglestone of Capital City Stationers.
Damaris Miller, who, together with her husband Karl, owns Miller Sports, said "We do it for advertising. We also do it for aesthetics." Fred Wilber, of Buch Spieler Music on Langdon Street, said, "It's great to hear people laughing out there."
Given the finite territory available for a newspaper article, it was impossible to interview all of the business owners about what they do in their windows. They all have their own arrangements and tastes, making for some excellent storefront creativity. Several shops, however, have ventured into the offbeat, sporting unusual works that are just wacky or unexpected enough to make passersby either laugh or shake their heads in disbelief.
As Time Goes ByMiller Sports on Main Street has one such display. It is in an upper corner and in the back of their large window expanse on Main Street.
Though it can be easy to miss at first, it catches the eye, something wholly incongruent with the normal fare of a sporting goods store: miniature cuckoo clocks. Each one is finely crafted. "The clocks are made in the Black Forest of Germany," Mrs. Miller said. "They are made by the same company and there are about fifty or sixty different kinds of clocks."
Mrs. Miller said that her family had a cuckoo clock. "I bought one for Karl and he loved it," she said. The Millers have their rows of clocks up in a high corner of their window because it fits. "There is really no rhyme or reason to the design," Mrs. Miller said. "It's been the spot for them." She said that her customers often comment about the exhibit. Some are incredulous and cannot believe it. Others "come in and ask what time it is."
Jean LucJean Luc stares at the Montpelier scene from the window of mise en place on Main Street. Mise en place is a cookware and gift store that has been in business for seven years. Jean Luc has been there for all of them. "He's my logo," said Loren Honatke Miller, owner of mise en place. "He's been in there for seven years. I never want to get rid of him.
Jean Luc is a wood cutout figure of a French waiter. He is named and modeled after the sci-fi character Jean Luc Piccard, captain of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek, The Next Generation. Mrs. Miller is a science fiction fan and Jean Luc is one of her favorite characters.
Loren Honatke Miller's daughter had an artist friend design him. Mrs. Miller's husband did the cutouts and the artist painted the figure onto them. "He's been a fixture," she said. "Every once in a while someone wants to buy him. They think he's really cute. But I never want to part with him."
Directions AnyoneEric Bigglestone creates the window displays for Capital Stationers on Main Street. "If you put something in the window it sells," he said. It is hard to pass by one of Bigglestone's creations without at least a second glance or stopping to peer down at some point on the globe.
Capital Stationers has a prolific map department and Bigglestone enjoys having fun with it in his window. "We always put maps in the window," Bigglestone said, "It stops people in their tracks." What especially grabs attention are the bizarre ones. "I try to order one or two weird ones," Bigglestone said. "We once had a map that was upside down. People would run in and ask if we knew the map was upside down."
Bigglestone has been doing the exhibits for about ten years now. "Sometimes I plan them out, sometimes I don't," he said. But it is always interesting to see what Bigglestone will do next.
Watch It -- That Guy's Diving Through the WindowOne of the maestros of Montpelier window artists is Fred Wilber of Buch Spieler Music on Langdon Street. Wilber loves to dabble in the bizarre and comical, mixed with a generous blend of social and political commentary. "I have always tried to have a subliminal social and political message going on," Wilber said. "The overt (political and social commentary) began with Gingrich and the radical right takeover in the mid-90's."
When the store opened in 1973 it was about a third of its present size. But as Buch Spieler expanded over the years, it gained more window canvas for Wilber to work his unique creations. "It was not until we got enough space that we could expand," he said. "It's fun to create an interesting window."
Wilber has played with many concepts and ideas since he started doing his displays back in the 80's. He has even featured live models. "In the mid-80's we used to have alternative clothing," he said. "We had live models in the window. They were usually high school kids that did it for theatrical expression. One girl sat in the window wearing a shawl-type dress with a white rat on her shoulders," Wilber said. "The rat was her pet. It got attention." It is possible to find just about anything out of the ordinary in Wilber's window works, from wild bumper stickers, and wacky postcards to a huge white plaster man suspended in midair, diving straight down, seemingly about to crash through the glass at the person looking at it. The man was a gift from a student.
The window menagerie on Langdon Street has, of course, garnered attention, including a lady that came into the store screaming, "You're one of those people." This happened during Gingrich's short reign as Speaker of the House when the Associated Press featured one of Wilber's anti-Gingrich displays.
Whether it is colorful, humorous, quirky, or all of these, the displays created by the downtown merchants in their glass canvases make it a delight to meander around downtown, peering into store windows.
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