Rarely does a single establishment imbue an entire region with culture, cuisine, and a palpable air of excitement. Located inside an abandoned velvet factory in Stonington, the Velvet Mill manages to do just that. Founded over a decade ago, the Velvet Mill is a multidisciplinary art space, gallery and community for a range of small businesses and craftspeople. A short trip around the incredibly expansive interior reveals everything from accomplished glass blowers and graphic artists, to cold-pressed juice shops and trendy boutiques. The Stonington Village Farmers’ Market, which takes place at the Mill each Saturday from 10 AM to 1 PM through May, is a particular draw, with its bounty of locally sourced produce, prepared foods, and home goods.
Kathryn Hilbert, owner of the Velvet Mill-based art and design studio Koh, is a particular fan of the space. “The Mill is such a great place. We have a bakery, a brewery, a farmers’ market on Saturday, and a cheese shop is even moving in,” says Hilbert. “We also have two shows a year and an art gallery upstairs. It’s very fun and very eclectic.”
Aaren Simonici, who owns the on-site brewery Beer’d, agrees. “Having so many artists around works very nicely,” Simonici says. “The fact that other artists open their doors allows us to have patrons come in and explore what we do.” Apparently this increased exposure has paid off: Simonici is about to expand to a new brew house with double the space and capacity.
This sudden success is touching each artist and craftsperson at the Mill—all seem to have exciting new developments to talk about. This isn’t surprising in an establishment that is becoming a vital part of the Southeastern Connecticut art scene. Each weekend the Velvet Mill fills with ever-bigger crowds of curious visitors from across the area.
“Everyone here is an expert in something different, so it is great to work together,” says Patti Murphy, the creative director of her own design boutique and papery. “The mill is always changing, and I feel that it inspires a lot people to follow what they are interested in. I feel that the community really loves it.”