First Fridays

Art Berger

Art Berger, co-captain at the Wooden Duck and advocate for First Fridays in Skippack

First Friday 2015: Dates for First Friday in 2015 are May 1, June 5, July 3, August 7, September 4, and October 2.

TG it’s Friday. Eat, shop, stroll and enjoy music, art & other activities for the entire family throughout the village. Plenty of parking. Just come to Skippack Village. Starts at 5 pm. Participating shops open ’til 9 pm.

See photos and videos from First Fridays

For more information see the 2015 Skippack Events Listing.

First Fridays: Village Portrait

What dreamy-eyed young boy doesn’t look up to the soldier going to battle, the astronaut going to the heavens, the man on the flying trapeze ?those great heroes of adventure, who bravely and freely sparkle with life’s possibilities. But then life itself happens; the spaceship bursts into flames in the sky; the soldier comes home weary and disillusioned; the trapeze artist files a lawsuit against his employer the circus. How ridiculous the admiration for the heroes of one’s youth seems once one gets a salty taste of reality. The need to make a living becomes paramount. One sees accommodation and compromise and learns to play by the rules.

But there is one type of person, I’ll even say hero, who can instill some of that same sense of awe and admiration felt during my youth into the blood of my middle age. The hero of my later life is a man or woman who after many years of inhabiting a corporate cubicle or office, long after the fire of youth has steadied itself, cuts the umbilical cord connecting them to the corporation and strikes out to make a living on their own and live out the autumn of their life a free man or woman at last.

Such are my thoughts sitting in the office of Art Berger, the co-owner with his wife Jane, of the Wooden Duck, a store in Skippack which sells gift items and women’s apparel.

Art and Jane have owned the store for 11 years. For the first nine years of their ownership, Jane steered the course of the Wooden Duck, growing the business and developing the product mix that was their formula for success. Art held a position in the corporate world as a director of accounting in the health care Industry.

Byers' Choice

Byers’ Choice carolers welcome visitors to the Wooden Duck

Just over a year ago, Art left his corporate job to become a fulltime partner with Jane, helping her commandeer the Wooden Duck and its crew. The Wooden Duck seems like a good name for a ship and I am picturing in my mind Art and Jane setting sail, leaving the shores of corporate security to chart their own course, to the benefit of us who live in Skippack and our visitors.

If Art and Jane are co-captains sharing the helm, then the passengers in steerage are the numerous wide-eyed, open-mouthed Byers’ Choice carolers that populate the store itself, as well as much of the space in Art’s office and a newly-built warehouse in the back. The population density of these decorative figures is testimony to the success of the Wooden Duck. The Wooden Duck is the largest retailer for Byers’ Choice carolers which are handmade in nearby Chalfont Pennsylvania by one of the few manufacturers of holiday gifts remaining in America. There are Byers’ Choice figures with special designs handcrafted exclusively for the Wooden Duck and only available from this Skippack-based establishment. In addition, the Wooden Duck has an expanding showroom of women’s clothing, jewelry, accessories and many other gift items. The flow of customers is steady and my impression is that Art and Jane run a tight ship, if a cheerful and colorful one.

Before I steer too far off course, I am reminded that Art is a man with a mission. I am invited into his office for a purpose. Now that Art is full-time co-captain at the Wooden Duck, he has become much more involved in the Skippack Merchants Association and is one of the prime movers behind a new initiative ?First Fridays in Skippack. Better get to the point already. Art is eager to get the word out about first Fridays, and this blogger does not want a mutiny on his conscience.

Debby modeling at Wooden Duck

My wife Debby models an outfit available from the Wooden Duck

“Our goal for First Fridays is simple?to bring more people to Skippack Village,” says Art.

Beginning on Friday, April 1st 2011, participating merchants will stay open until 9:00 p.m. the first Friday of every month through October. For entertainment, street musicians will perform throughout town and artists will exhibit their work, with an emphasis on fine arts rather than crafts. There will be activities for children, discounts at selected merchants and dinner specials at selected restaurants. Special activities are set to start at 5 p.m.

“First Fridays will offer something for everyone: Singles, couples, families with children and parents who leave their children with a babysitter,” explains Art.

While filled with enthusiasm, he cautions people not to expect an event of the magnitude of our larger festivals, such as Skippack Days. He hopes to build First Fridays into a robust tradition over time.

Toward the end of our talk, Art and I return to an unavoidable topic here in Skippack; the impact of social trends and the economy on the Village. About seven years ago, some 54 retailers were listed in the Skippack Village walking guide. Now the number of retailers listed is about half that figure. The increase in for rent signs is troubling. The Wooden Duck is thriving thanks to a sound strategy that includes e-commerce, a pleasing shopping environment, an unusual product mix, and a well-established clientele built up over many years.

“I would be reluctant to open a new retail business in current economic circumstances,” admits Art.

I finish our discussion and walk past the colorful decorative gift items, trying to take a few photographs of the store without bothering customers. The Wooden Duck seems a solid vessel to navigate the rough waters of a changing economy. I am glad to see Art and Jane Berger at the helm, both dedicated to the success of the business and especially glad to see Art taking an active role in the Skippack merchant community. For the Skippack merchants’ new project, First Fridays in Skippack, I hope for the best of luck and smooth sailing.

Debby at jewelry case

Expect to work for a long time: My wife discovers a jewelry case at the Wooden Duck in Skippack