Words and Photo By Gina Salvadori.
The Drawing Room, Anthi Frangiadis’s home dècor boutique just steps away from the waterfront, feels like it’s been open for generations. It’s reminiscent of a fixture in downtown New Bedford that might have supplied our great-grandparents with the special lamps, tableware, and artwork they passed down to us.
In fact, Anthi moved her popular shop to the Whaling City in 2019, after seven years in downtown Marion. But the shop has an aura of history with its location on the corner of cobblestoned streets across from the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Being part of New Bedford’s renaissance brings extra vitality to The Drawing Room and helps her plan her offering.
“I always think about it from the perspective of the neighborhood,” Anthi said. When she realized there was no florist nearby, she added a pop-up shop to The Drawing Room, offering fresh flowers on Saturdays. She also dedicated a corner of the store to introduce Westport Rivers Vineyard wines and hosts tastings and educational events.
The result: you may not need another beautiful painting of the Southcoast shoreline this weekend, but you might need a six-pack of locally brewed IPA, so you’re more likely to stop in. While there, you might browse the racks of cards, flip through paint samples, or soak up the sun beaming through the oversized windows of the historic building that houses the shop.
Anthi herself is in her 40s, with a sheaf of impossibly thick black hair that confirms her Greek heritage. She is trained as an architect and continues to do that work in a studio upstairs from the shop.
Some of the artwork and artifacts from The Drawing Room find their way into the new home construction or renovations that she has designed…or the home of the leading actress in an acclaimed TV drama series who summers on the South Coast, or a downtown apartment shared by a trio of college students.
The theme, Anthi explained, is functional art. Sure, there are plenty of purely decorative pieces to be found, but this is really the place to score unique lamps or whimsical dishtowels.
“She has a great eye,” said Colby Smith, who has been making handcrafted brass door-knockers for the better part of 50 years. In his Swansea studio, he explains that The Drawing Room is one of the few retail outlets where his gleaming conch shells, horseshoe crabs, and other nautical or nature-themed door-knockers are available.
“I can only do so much,” continued Colby, who otherwise sells his wares online or at high-end art shows throughout the country. “Consequently, I say no to other retailers in the area because Anthi carries them. She’s the kind of business partner you want to have.”
Drawing Room defined: a formal reception room.
Corrinn Jusell, a 2018 UMass-Dartmouth graduate, agrees. Corrinn’s work is hand-thrown porcelain tableware and mugs, thin and delicate as can be. “She really works for you,” she said of Anthi. And having an agent of sorts is a great asset for an artisan. “Selling is not something that most artists naturally do. I have to think about being on.”
Both Corrinn and Colby were courted by Anthi for years before they agreed to a place in her shop. Seems that curating The Drawing Room’s offerings means scouring the region for handcrafted items that are a good fit. “What’s important is good craftsmanship,” Anthi confided.
Clearly, the shop is defined by a sense of community. The Drawing Room is an active part of New Bedford’s “AHA!” Nights, a city-wide celebration of culture held on the second Thursday of every month. Through the summer and into the fall, the space on the sidewalk in front of the shop has hosted New Bedford Symphony musicians for “Sonata Saturdays.”
When the pandemic hit, The Drawing Room shifted seamlessly to virtual events, with Westport Rivers Vineyard wine tastings, and how-to presentations called “conversations,” available from the comfort of your home via Anthi’s website.
But now that the pandemic seems to be easing a bit, welcome back to what feels like Anthi’s home, in a city she has easily adopted. “You can make a day of it,” she said, pointing to New Bedford’s historical sites, other specialty shops, and restaurants within view of her front door. “People are still buying things in person,” Anthi added. “Keeping storefronts occupied is important to me.”
The Drawing Room
36 North Water Street
New Bedford, MA 02740
Gina Salvadori is a Southcoast-based writer who loves to eat and shop local. She and her partner, The Big Dog, write Chow, a Southcoast/South Shore restaurant review blog, www.SouthCoastChow.com