‘Clementine’ a feast for the senses

MIDDLEBURY — Emily Blistein had spent most of her adult life as a student, lawyer and advocate for women in crisis.
But last month, at age 31, she decided to dramatically shift gears and pursue another one of her passions: Collecting well-made, vintage things and sharing them with the public.
A wide variety of those things — including caned rockers, glass ornaments and fragrant soaps — can be found in Blistein’s new store “Clementine,” located at 58 Main St. in Middlebury.
Blistein grew up in Brattleboro, pursued a law degree and eventually found herself working to better the lives of women. She helped incarcerated women and volunteered in efforts to battle domestic violence. She worked for Vermont Legal Aid, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Vermont Women’s Fund.
Her work often took her to the Vermont Statehouse to lobby on behalf of women’s issues. The subject matter can be stressful, and Blistein drew some calm from sewing and making crafts.
“I found an old, vintage sewing machine during that period of time and began sewing in my spare time, making things for baby showers and wedding presents,” Blistein recalled.
“It brought my blood pressure down,” she added of the activity. “It made my life a lot easier and it was a great balance.”
She became particularly interested in traditional wedding items and fabric and began collecting vintage bottles, linens and other wares.
Blistein recently got married to Drew Palcsik and relocated to Middlebury. Here she struck up a friendship with Cindy Pratt, who owned the Gilded Cage, the previous tenant of 58 Main St.
“I would chat with (Pratt) every once in a while when I was in here and overheard her say one day that she was selling the store,” Blistein said. She became intrigued with the prospect of running her own business, one that could showcase her own interests while generating some revenue.
“I thought, ‘This could be this touchstone for me, a place where I could go and be surrounded by these vintage things I love and I could satisfy my need to keep collecting,’” Blistein said.
So Blistein bought the business and officially reopened it in November as “Clementine,” featuring some of the inventory from Gilded Cage with a lot of new flourishes. Blistein uses three main words to describe her wares: “Handmade, fetching and vintage.”
Assembled through visits to antique shops and contacts made with regional and local artists and vendors, Blistein’s wares include vintage Christmas ornaments, glassware, silver and table settings; handmade cards and prints; antique furniture, ranging from rockers to bureaus; rugs; an array of delicate soaps; candles; scarves; lampshades; mirrors and picture frames.
She has set up her sewing machine in the back of the store to fashion her own creations between visits from customers. She hopes to gather a group of like-minded craftspeople to work with her in the space.
Blistein said business has been brisk, with ornaments in particular proving to be a big seller.
“I’ve had a good month,” Blistein said of the space she refers to as “a gathering space for all the things I love.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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