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Fancy FREE Holds Grand Re-Opening on Main Street

Local artisans showcase handcrafted gifts

On Monday, Dec. 5 the Village of Farmingdale and other local and state officials gathered at Fancy FREE Gift Shop and Artisan Center at 248 Main Street in Farmingdale to help celebrate its grand re-opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a showcase of the local crafts and talent that will be available and the gift shop.

The Fancy FREE Gift Shop is organized and operated by Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. (FREE), a nonprofit agency that supports over 3,000 individuals with autism and other special needs.

“This [the gift shop] was conceived of and created by and with those that we support everyday,” said FREE CEO Robert Budd. “Farmingdale has just been a wonderful place to be in business.”

Products available at the gift shop are made and sold by those with disabilities, with the crafting instruction by many local artisans and businesses.

Budd said, “Our philosophy is to celebrate the gifts and talents of the people we support.” He was appreciative of the overwhelming turnout of friends and guests for the celebration.

A visitor to the store can find the most one-of-a-kind trinkets and gifts for any occasion, including hand painted stemware, dog toys, jewelry, handbags, fine art paintings and prints, boutique type items and more.

“I love creating art,” said Jason Churchill, one of the FREE artisans. “When you make a purchase, you make a difference in my life because of the opportunity I have to work in the store.”

Many crafters like Marketa Forstova-Horton come to donate their time and services to teach FREE crafters like Jennifer Davis how to create beautiful handcrafted items to sell. Forstova-Horton is a full-time college student, and also a consultant who teaches bead stringing for necklaces.

“I love arts and crafts; one of my favorite things is making dog toys,” said Kimberly Stelter, FREE artisan. “Today I am excited to be here at the grand opening.”

The profits from the gifts sold at the gift shop go back into the FREE programming.

The shop is beginning on a consignment basis, but also to help support local artists. It allows for FREE members to gain employment experience, in a trade, or sales, or customer service.

Jeannine Corsini, store manager, said the store is “giving differently-abled artisans the opportunity to work in the community by creating these handcrafted products.”

“This place is perfect for our Village,” said Mayor Butch Starkie with an explanation of how the businesses on Main Street are essential to the Downtown Master Plan. “I think you have hit it out of the park with this programming.” He presented a citation on behalf of Legislator Joseph Belesi, who was unable to attend, to Fancy FREE.

Maureen O’Connell, Nassau County Clerk, praised the FREE programming, saying there is nothing like FREE and the services it provides, also presenting FREE with a County citation. Assemblyman Joseph Saladino said, “None of us have the level of care, and leadership, and show it on a day-to-day basis like the people who run these programs; your hearts are tremendous, your heads are in the right place and your concern is second to none.”

In addition to the Fancy FREE Gift Shop re-opening celebration, Major Charles Kilbride of the United States Marine Corps was in attendance in support to FREE, and to present a plaque of appreciation to Assemblyman Saladino. Kilbride was proud to host the FREE Singers at the kick-off celebration of this year’s Toys For Tots collection season at Oheka Castle in November.

Caracara Mexican Grill, at 354 Main Street, graciously donated the delicious snacks that were served to guests of the celebration.  

For more information, visit Fancy FREE at 248 Main Street in Farmingdale or at their website: http://www.shopfancyfree.org/. The store is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional parking is available in the rear lot.