Barn Shops reborn in Chadds Ford

Barn Shop owner John Anderson wants to bring back the area's former shopping vigor.

The Barn Shops, a landmark for shopping in Chadds Ford Township for decades, has had dwindling traffic over the past dozen years. But new owner John Anderson hopes to resurrect the former vigor.

Anderson recently renovated the front building, the former Chadds Ford Gallery, to accommodate new businesses and said a café would be moving into the location currently occupied by the yoga studio, where there was previously a coffee shop.

He couldn't name the new café or give a date for the opening but said it's going to happen. The big changes right now are what is happening in that front building. The rear portion will become the yoga studio, while the front area has two businesses sharing space, a blend of one new business and one familiar face.

Barbara Moore, left, and Bri Brant are sharing space where the Chadds Ford Gallery used to be.

As previously reported, Barbara Moore — who was the director of the old gallery — is now operating Barbara Moore Fine Art. She'll be dealing with Paul Scarborough art, Wyeth prints and consulting on framing. But Moore will also assist a new business, Arden and James.

Bri Brant is the owner of the new shop. She designs, makes and sells handbags.

Brant, 37, grew up in Pennsbury Township and is a 1998 graduate of Unionville High School. She attended Philadelphia University when it was still Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, studying industrial design.

As for the business, that grew out of her being inspired by natural, local materials, she said.

"I started out with a hand woven linen that I came across, and I asked myself, ‘What does this need to be?’ I thought it should be a bag, that's how I got started making bags," she said.

"I'll be attracted to a certain quality of the material, like the texture. It feels good. It smells good, and it's durable. It will last your whole life. I would take that linen and make it into a bag."

The business grew after she put photos of her work on her website and people expressed interest.

From working with linen, she branched out into working with leather after 'finding a source she likes, a 150-year-old vegetable tannery.

"Vegetable tanneries are almost impossible to find. There are only two in the whole country."

Bri Brant says her handbags are semi-custom based on how they'll be used.

The other type of tannery uses chromium, something Brant doesn't want to use. She explained that vegetable tanning is a longer process, taking up to 60 days and using "acres and acres" of space, but is better for the environment.

"The leather is placed in large vats, then dying it with bark and leaves. It's an old-school process, but it makes leather that's extremely durable. It's the most beautiful leather, and it ages so well," she said.

Whether she's working with leather or waxed canvas, Brant starts out with four colors and four sizes and then customizes some design elements, such as strapping and interior pockets. She refers to her work as "semi-custom."

"I adjust the design based on how people will use the bag," she said. "It's your own bag."

Brant also said that many of the commercial bags are only meant to last for a season before they start falling apart or losing their appearance. They also aren't big enough or have enough pockets.

"So, I start simple, then add on."

She also uses magnetic closures, not zippers. "Zippers don't age well. My bags are made to last. You can pass them on to your daughter."

Prices range, she said, from $50 for a very small bag to $350 for a large one. Add on details are extra.

 

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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