Arts Alum Using Curation Skills as a Business Owner

Terra in North Adams

Samantha White ’19, an art major at MCLA, is using her curation skills and artistic eye on a new project: Terra, a curated secondhand shop on Ashland Street in North Adams.

Terra opened in mid-July and offers clothing, home goods, vintage kitchenware, books, shoes, and other items that speak to her in some way. She’s working on presenting a wide range of clothing sizes. Open Thursday-Sunday, shoppers will find everything from vintage glass dishes shaped like different fruits to fur coats that recall a more opulent era.

Like many others, the pandemic gave White an opportunity to think deeply about how she wanted to live her life and what she wanted to do for work. She said she was also inspired to open the store after working at The Plant Connector on Eagle Street. She and that shop’s owner “shared a lot of similarities, going through other customer service jobs and having an unpleasant experience. We want to create something pleasant for people walking through the door, and people working for us as well.”

Terra in North AdamsWhite has always had an eye for vintage and secondhand pieces—“I’ve always been picking out things for other people, and curating that way,” she said. “Even if it’s not necessarily my taste, if I see something and think, ‘that’s a special piece,’ I’m going to grab it.” She’s been gathering stock from local estate sales and thrift shops, and is regularly on the hunt for more treasures.

She’s also used her business skills to grow awareness of the shop—she runs Instagram ads featuring products for sale, held a grand opening event in July that packed the store, and is close with other downtown North Adams business owners, helping to create a feedback loop that helps draw people into the city center. “There’s a lot of initiatives happening to get people to walk further into the town,” she said.

Exploring Berkshire history through these objects is a big part of what drives White—she said she often buys old letters and photographs if she sees them because they’re so fascinating. “There’s so much history here,” she said. “It’s about the story. There’s a lot of research involved, especially when it goes into pricing things. You fall down a rabbit hole searching for value and stumble on all these other things about an item.”

Buying secondhand is also a solid environmental choice. “There’s a lot more awareness and accountability for your ethical and environmental impact, of all the parts of your lifestyle,” she said. “It’s one more way to be that much more sustainable.”

Follow Terra on Instagram @terra.northadams.