Fran Ayres from New Stone Age
Fran Ayres has watched West 3rd Street her entire life. She grew up in the neighborhood and, although she doesn’t live here any longer, her store New Stone Age has been a staple on the West end of the street since 1980. You can’t have West 3rd Street without Fran.
“I grew up around here,”she explains from behind the counter, as she and shopgirl Holly file paperwork. “This place is kind of like home which makes it a lot of fun. I like that it’s a young neighborhood, too. I like to see people and be around people and be around excitement and growth.”
“It used to be an entirely Jewish neighborhood,”she adds. “There used to be kosher delis and a barber shops, one of which is where our old space was (and is the gallery space now). The street has changed a lot—but it still has a flavor.”
New Stone Age was created as a means to share the work of local creators. Fran volunteered at the Craft & Folk Art Museum for many years and fell in love with handcrafted items. After a divorce, she felt her world change for the better and that it was time for her to start something. “One night, my uncle called and said there was a space available in the building we are in now and that we had twenty four hours to make a decision,”she says. “My business partner and I decided to take the space. Together, her and I and her brother and my new partner tore the shop apart and rebuilt it together.”
“We did everything: we did the floors we did the walls and we pulled it all together. It was all handmade ceramics and other unusual things. We were always into skulls and Day Of The Dead and then we decided we wanted to be in a bigger space so we moved into this space in 1984. We moved here and did the same thing in terms of building it. My business partner—who was a jeweler—decided to move on so I bought her out and stayed here.”
“I’ve been here all this time,”she smiles. “It’s been a long time. And it’s still fun.”
Fran thanks her uncle for getting her where she is now. Without him, she likely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to open the shop because it would have been too expensive. “It was very difficult,”she says. “When my uncle said this was available, he meant he was going to help us out which was a big, big thing. We didn’t have to pay all the fees and our rent was good. We put all that extra money into renovating the place. We were lucky.”
From being in the area so long, Fran does have a concern that the West 3rd Street could quickly become prey to bigger businesses trying to steal the energy she and other store owners have helped build. She hopes to see new, local makers coming to the street though. “It’d be nice if there was more mixture,”she says. “But, that’s impossible as the rent goes up…”
New Stone Age plans to continue on West 3rd Street and even polish up their space a little bit. As Holly explains, they’ve also recently made an effort to get more online. “It’s exciting to see people in Minnesota and New York ordering things from us,”she says.
“That’s the next big thing,”Fran comments.
“It’s a fun challenge to convey the aesthetic for the store, online,”Holly adds. She turns to cash out a customer.
“You know, I like to enjoy the present though,”Fran says. “I’ve always been that way. I don’t think about the future or look forward to things. If I like something or want something, I just try to do it.”
“I do hope the street doesn’t get any more corporate than this,”she concludes. The customer waves on his way toward the exit. “What did you end up buying?”Fran asks.
“A crow and a bracelet,”he replies. “Whenever I need anything, I immediately come here. I don’t go anywhere else. So, thank you.”
Fran blushes, “Oh, well, thank you. You could be going to Abbot Kinney—but you came here!”
The two laugh and the customer exits the back door.
WHAT THE STREET MEANS
“To me, it mostly means small, specifically small retail stores. I hope it stays that way! I think that’s really the important thing.”
WHERE THEY SHOP
“I go to Noodle Stories. I like to go to Benefit, the beauty place, too. It’s fun there! We usually get our lunch around here, sometimes at Joan’s On Third.”