Woodcraft shop will close after 36 years
MONTOUR FALLS--Anyone driving on Route 14 through Montour Falls has surely noticed Falls Woodcraft Gift Shop. You couldn't miss it; it's been a fixture in town for 36 years.
The house turned store was always surrounded by and covered with colorful wooden crafts and yard art, from animal cutouts to whirligigs to mailboxes.
Now Falls Woodcraft is selling all of its inventory at 50 percent off, including one whole room of Christmas decorations.
Mert Silliman, now 85 and a native of Montour Falls, started the business making picnic tables and adirondack chairs.
"One year dimensional lumber doubled in price," he said. "I made good tables and quality, had to, but nobody could afford them if I doubled the price. One thing led to another and this lady came along," he added pointing to his wife, Nona (short for Winona).
One day they visited a craft show and Nona, from Ovid and now 76, saw a scroll saw in action. She said, "I can do that. It works like a sewing machine."
"I like saws," Nona smiles quietly now, remembering that she went through five of them over the years.
They've been married for 31 years and Mert describes the transition this way, "Guess you could say it went from a hobby, to a part-time job, to a full-time job and then a lifestyle."
She did all of the cutting, sanding and background painting. He likes to say he was "the senior citizen bag boy," but he also actually did all of the detail work on their crafts.
"We made an awful lot of good friends, got Christmas cards and thank you notes," he said.
Customers came from around the world, many traveling from New York City to Niagara Falls and "getting off the beaten path."
Mert and Nona lived just 13 steps above the shop on the second floor for 30 years. But their lifestyle began to change six-and-a-half years ago when Nona suffered a stroke.
A fighter, she still worked hard at recovery and for a few years she could get around with a walker. Then one day Mert was waiting on a customer when he heard a loud thump upstairs. It was Nona falling.
She broke her pelvis in three places. The injuries and spinal stenosis left her in terrible pain and unable to walk. Last Dec. 23, she had back surgery which got rid of the pain, but didn't get her walking again.
They've moved five doors away, down a side street, to the house Mert grew up in and rented out for years.
While both are sad to be giving up the business that has provided them a livelihood and a dream life together, they still have smiles, stories and jokes to tell.
The sign on the door says it all, "We had a good run."
You can find Falls Woodcraft at 123 Catherine St. (Route 14), Montour Falls; phone 607-535-7644.