Save the Dunes Gift Shop closing in August
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org | 648-3154 June 24, 2012 4:42PM
Volunteers Jean Buckley, left, chats with Carolyn Bach at the Save the Dunes Council gift shop in Beverly Shores Friday June 15, 2012. Buckley was purchasing a poster for her daughter. The gift shop is slated to close due to the lack of volunteers. Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
End of era
The Save the Dunes Shop closes its doors Aug. 31.
It’s located in Beverly Shores, 92 U.S. 12, four miles east of Indiana 49
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays
Updated: June 24, 2012 8:42PM
BEVERLY SHORES — For four decades this small little treasure burrowed in the heart of dunes country existed solely on volunteer labor.
Customers could find original dunes paintings, South Shore posters, handmade pottery and even purses created from duct tape by a 12-year-old girl.
But as that free labor aged, replacements never emerged.
Now, it’s been announced the Save the Dunes Shop will close its doors for good Aug. 31.
“The difficulties of maintaining a specialty shop with volunteers were hard and more people are shopping online and going to big-box stores,” said Jeannette Neagu, president of the Save the Dunes board.
“If a wonderful fairy godmother would come along, we’d keep it open,” she said. “But the younger people are just so busy.”
Carolyn Bach, who has been managing the shop for about 15 years, reflected on its passing recently as cars zoomed by the business on U.S. 12, about 4 miles east of Indiana 49.
“It’s amazing to think we’ve been staffed by volunteers seven days a week,” said Bach, a retired Illinois schoolteacher who has devoted her weekends to the shop. “I’ve been putting in four or five shifts, you just can’t do anything else,” she said of the time it consumes.
Yet, there are benefits.
“The flip side is I’ve met so many wonderful artists and customers. They’re in tears when I tell them we’re closing.”
Over the years, only one check has bounced, said Bach. “That says something about the quality of customers we have. And she came in and paid it the next day and made a donation.”
The Save the Dunes Council, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, plans to continue offering some of the gift shop items in mobile locations at events like Chesterton’s European Market and other regional events.
Bach said women who first formed the Save the Dunes group in 1952 used to sell notecards door-to-door to raise money for environmental advocacy efforts.
Neagu said the shop was meant to be a way to raise money for Save the Dunes initiatives.
The gift shop opened in 1972 with two book titles and 100 copies of each — a book about flowers and one about sights in the dunes. Former director Charlotte Read had an office in the shop space, and often waited on customers.
Bach said she was drafted as manager in 1997 by the late Ruth Osann, former Save the Dunes board president.
Its volunteers have been dedicated and devoted, said Neagu and Bach.
“My mother worked at that shop for almost 20 years,” said Neagu. “She took the South Shore from Ogden Dunes to Beverly Shores because she never drove.”
All sales, from T-shirts to paintings worth hundreds of dollars, are recorded by hand into a ledger book and receipts are written out by hand.
“The volunteers said if you bring in a computer, ‘I’m out,’ ” Bach said. The biggest concession they have to modern amenities is a large calculator.
Bach said most of the artists are melancholy over the closing.
“They’re all very sad because of what the shop represents.
“To me, it’s the beauty and talent that resides within us and to see it from someone else’s eyes is always an awakening.”