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  • Live Love Ligonier

Inside.. Allegory Gallery!

There’s a place named Allegory Gallery in Ligonier that is so much more than ‘a little bead shop’.

Its owners, William Jones and Andrew Thornton, have channeled their passion for the arts by building a thriving business with a broad view. Yes, they sell beautiful beads of every color and material imaginable (lampwork glass, polymer clay, metal, and ceramic) that are sourced from places like Nepal, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, and Japan. They also produce beads in-house that are simply works of art, made of materials such as porcelain, resin, and laser-engraved wood. But the owners aren’t simply sitting on a stool behind a cash register all day, accepting money in exchange for said beads. Their extensive online presence and in-store gallery showcases the work of talented artists and craftsmen. They have reinvented their business over and over, devising new ways to engage the community in coming together to create something beautiful.

Growing up in Orlando, Andrew would hang around a local art shop whenever he could. Knowing he didn’t have a lot of money, the shop owner gave him odd jobs so that he could work off the cost of the some of the purchases he made. She was also one of the first people who took notice of Andrew’s artwork, encouraging him to show it alongside the work of adults in an art show. There was a strong sense of community that surrounded this shop - the regulars had become somewhat of a mismatched family. Andrew felt comfortable in this environment and his experience in this place left a lasting impression on him.

After a ‘false start’ in journalism, Andrew realized he needed to follow his calling, and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He also worked for his sister and brother-in-law’s jewelry company, Green Girl Studios. His job was to travel the country selling their unique metalsmith-made beads - but this sparked a deep interest in jewelry-making. Soon Andrew’s designs were being noticed by magazine editors. He started designing projects for magazines and books, and later, television.

It was here in the city of New York that he met his life partner, William Jones. A Pennsylvania native with a passion for technology, William had degrees in French and Spanish from Penn State University. He worked in a variety of retail settings, from tiny upscale clothing boutiques, to specialty children's book stores. He was also employed by big retail giants like Bloomingdales and Apple.

After several years in the thick of the NYC hustle, they both decided to relocate closer to William’s PA family. They visited our lovely town, and as Andrew says, they fell in love with the natural beauty of the area and the small town Americana charm of Ligonier. They began to meet so many who were hospitable and generous of spirit, and felt accepted and warmly welcomed by the community. They settled into jobs in the area, but their conversations kept turning back to one thing - their desire to own their own store. William had developed a savvy business sense for marketing over the years, and with Andrew’s creativity, an art gallery of sorts seemed like a good fit. The pieces of the puzzle came together quickly, as if it were always meant to be.

Seven years after taking this leap, they are now celebrating their new title of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) 2018 American Small Business Champion. Allegory Gallery entered into this competition (which asked the question: ‘What makes your business unique?’) and was chosen as one of 102 Champion businesses nationwide who were invited to Reno, Nevada this spring to attend a small business workshop and conference. Now that they’ve returned from the workshop, they will implement all that they have learned. In September of this year, a gala will be held wherein three Grand Champions will be selected and awarded $15,000.

One of the many reasons they were chosen for this honor is because of their efforts to reach out to the community in a myriad of ways. The shop offers ‘Make and Take’ classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. They have community design challenges with mystery bead kits, where participants have two weeks to design jewelry from the kit and then will display their work on the store’s facebook page. They also offer a Polymer Clay Club that teaches members how to craft their own beads. And they host a local chapter of a national maker-inspired book club called Inspired By Reading. When members come together to discuss the book selection, they make jewelry that’s inspired by the story.

William and Andrew credit Ligonier’s vibrant interconnected merchant community with giving them the inspiration to grow. Andrew says “Whether it's woodworking or knitting or even fencing, Ligonier boasts some of the leading names in their fields, and it shows. This dedication to their craft shines in their small businesses and makes it a pleasure to be a member of this fascinating merchant community.”

The identity Andrew found in the Orlando art shop of his youth has translated into a realized dream. The working definition of Allegory is this: ‘A story, poem or image that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning.’ Andrew and William of Allegory Gallery have definitely found their own hidden meaning. And we’re so glad they did.

Click below to explore Allegory Gallery online:





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