The Founder, Carleen Wilenius
Carleen Wilenius, founder of The Creator’s Hands, was not an artist, and opening a store of any kind was the farthest thing from her imagination. But one afternoon in late September of 1979, a full blown idea landed in her head. She did not seek it and it did not ask permission to come.
The Creator’s Hands opened six weeks later on November 15, 1979, representing twenty-five area consignors in less than 500 square feet of space. For over 25 years, The Creator’s hands bloomed and thrived in its original location in Rochester’s 19th Ward.
In 2005, The Creator’s Hands moved to the High Falls District, where it remained for seven years, selling the work of over 250 American artists and craftspeople in 1,800 square feet. Early one August morning in 2011, Carleen sent out an email to friends and longtime customers announcing her decision to retire after 32 years in business. She hoped to find a buyer so that The Creator’s Hands would continue offering American handcrafted art and gifts to the Rochester community. “Coming to work every day is a joy – working with beautiful things, and the customers who delight in them,” says Shelly, owner of The Creator’s Hands.
A New Owner
Shelly was one of those email recipients. The idea of buying the business, and working at The Creator’s Hands, percolated through everything Shelly did that morning as she got ready for her “regular” job as a real estate paralegal. Though not an artist, and having no retail experience or expertise, the idea would not let Shelly alone.
She thought about it all morning, and forwarded the email to her husband later that day, asking, “Do you mind if I buy this business?”
A New Location
Four months later, on December 4, 2011, with support, encouragement, and countless hours of hard work by friends and family, including and especially Carleen’s family, The Creator’s Hands opened in a new location, in nearly 3,000 square feet of space fronting on Monroe Avenue, in Rochester’s Wadsworth Square neighborhood. Customers expressed how glad they were that The Creator’s Hands would continue to bring American handcrafts and art to Rochester. Shelly considers herself so grateful and humbled to have the privilege of carrying it forward.
Mt Hope Avenue, College Town, & Happily Ever After
The Creator’s Hands moved to College Town in December 2014, joining a revitalized, vibrant neighborhood near the University of Rochester and University of Rochester Medical Center. Shelly and her three employees all enjoy showcasing American handcrafted items, and the opportunity to help customers select gifts for themselves and others. Carleen, the original owner of The Creator’s Hands, is one of those employees!