Joe established the original Imagine Gift Shop in November of 1992 at 8 East Genesee Street in Skaneateles, New York. He calls himself “a product of the 1960’s”, as he and his wife Jane chose to leave Long Island and embark on a self-sustaining existence further upstate. The couple taught themselves how to make Early American brooms and, as they honed their skills, they slowly began to market their products. These gradually expanded to include fans, feather dusters, and furniture. Eventually these hand-crafted items turned into a full-time retail and wholesale occupation for Joe. Over twenty years of attending craft shows paid off when Joe decided to open his own small business. The connections he had made in the craft world were invaluable in terms of both the practical advice and support he received from other artisans.
Watching Imagine grow from a “funky old business with a metal cashbox” to an arts and crafts gallery with over 100 artists where business is conducted both in-person and online has been a dream come true for Joe. He’s loved every minute of being his own boss, interacting with his employees and customers, and owning a flourishing small business in the beautiful lakeside community of Skaneateles. Joe shares this enthusiasm by actively participating in the Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce, where he chairs the Tourism and the Dickens Festival Committees, both of which have brought increased business to the area, particularly during the slower winter months.
After eighteen years in the same location, Imagine needed extensive renovation. When a new storefront space became available just up the street, Joe jumped at the chance to expand his beloved business to include his daughter Sarah and her husband Jeremy. Along with giving the family more floor space and an unparalleled view out the back window, the relocation has also allowed them to broaden the scope of the merchandise the gift shop carries.
Though Joe plans to remain involved with Imagine, he’s also looking forward to passing the torch to the young couple. Along with being an accomplished artist herself, Sarah grew up attending the craft fairs with him and he is confident that she’ll be able to successfully carry on the business he founded. Stepping back will allow Joe to spend more time with his grandchildren, travel with Jane to National Parks all over the United States, and pursue his favorite hobbies of gardening, cooking, and downhill skiing.
Sarah has been exposed to a variety of artistic mediums and styles since she was a young girl. She became interested in pottery in college, obtaining her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics from Syracuse University and going on to receive a Master of Arts in Teaching from Bennington College in Vermont. Currently Sarah has studios in her home and at Imagine where she creates functional porcelain pottery pieces like cups, bowls, and ornate teapots that are both lovely and useful. Sarah is a member of, and demonstrating artist for, the Syracuse Ceramics Guild, a not-for-profit organization of potters dedicated to promoting awareness and understanding of the ceramic medium. She’s also a long-time member of the National Council for Education of Ceramic Arts.
The proud mother of two young children, Sarah took special pleasure in adding a “Children’s Corner” to Imagine. A portion of the gift shop was designed with the younger set in mind and instead of hearing “Don’t touch!” kids are encouraged to pick up and explore any item that catches their fancy. Her shelves are stocked with gifts that she’d like to give herself or that her own children would be happy to receive. Some of the most popular items include adorable handmade puppets by Cate and Levi, whimsical clocks by Boss Brown, and Starrylights ceramic nightlights. Imagine also carries unique wrought iron Tavern Puzzles and Solemate socks.
The Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce and Women TIES of Central New York are just a few of the business organizations that Sarah belongs to. She’s also an active participant in Skaneateles’ First Friday Nights and other art-related activities in her community like CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund) that provides financial assistance to artists who are struggling because of medical, personal, or business-related issues. Since Sarah began working with her father in the original Imagine, her goal has always been to own her own business. The 2009 relocation seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to partner with Joe and continue the family business. Sarah has many ideas for Imagine that she hopes to implement in the future, including offering private ceramics classes and other types of educational art workshops within the community.
In her spare time Sarah competes in, regional triathlons that benefit local charities and causes.
Jeremy holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics from Syracuse University and a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the University of Florida. He completed an apprenticeship at Bennington Potters in Vermont where he learned about production pottery working as mold maker and assisted with new product launch and production. He’s also taken part in several kiln building workshops and is a highly skilled Kiln Technician, along with possessing many useful business and technical skills.
Jeremy’s professional memberships include Syracuse Potters Guild, The National Council on Education of the Ceramic Arts, and the College Art Association. His work has appeared in Ceramics Monthly, Clay Times, and Ceramic Review Magazine and he often participates in renowned craft shows, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and the Strictly Functional Pottery National Show in Pennsylvania. He has a permanent collection displayed in the University Museum at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale Illinois and a private display at the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection in Baltimore, Maryland. His work has been exhibited in galleries all over the United States and he’s also been part of many Invitational Exhibitions. Jeremy is frequently asked to demonstrate his artistic technique in art workshops around the country and regularly donates his ceramics pieces for charity auctions or art-related fundraising efforts.
Besides being the sole proprietor of Jeremy Randall Ceramics, Jeremy is currently a Visiting Professor of Art at Cazenovia College and an Adjunct Professor of Ceramics at Syracuse University. He’s also served as Interim Acting Gallery Director for the Cazenovia College Art Gallery where he was responsible for hanging and de-installation of shows, coordinating artists, and scheduling gallery shows and events. Currently he’s the Studio Manager at Cazenovia College where he oversees operation of the sculpture, wood shop and ceramics studios. Jeremy is responsible for all of the installations for Imagine’s First Friday events, something he excels at.
When he’s not working, Jeremy plays in the banjo in an old-time string band, The Usual Suspects, and is a member of Trout Unlimited, an organization that works to protect, conserve, and restore North
America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
A Finger Lakes resident for seventeen years, Denise has spent thirteen of those years working with Joe and Sarah. With a background in interior design, Denise found that working as a manager at Imagine gives her the opportunity to use her artistic and organizational abilities in interesting ways, particularly when setting up merchandise displays of jewelry, glass, and ceramics. She loves the design aspect of the shop, especially having the chance to see the unique items different artists create and being able to purchase their work to share with Imagine’s clientele.
Denise has been a key player in Imagine’s evolution over the years. She describes herself as a “people-person” who enjoys providing outstanding customer service, a skill she continues to master by watching Joe. Being part of a locally owned business has been a fantastic experience for her and she looks forward to continuing to grow with Imagine and the Panzarella family in the coming years.
Lynda is a lifelong resident of Marcellus, New York where she and her husband run a Red Angus cattle farm. Having her own business has made her more independent and able to see “the big picture”, two skills she brings to her Sales Associate position at Imagine. Lynda wears many hats in the shop including managing inventory, working on the sales floor, and helping to organize monthly First Friday events. She enjoys meeting the wide variety of clientele Imagine attracts and being able to help customers find exactly what they’re looking for. For her, an added bonus of her job is that most of Imagine’s merchandise is made in the United States by American artisans.
Lynda isn’t the only Foster who’s contributed to Imagine’s success. Her oldest daughter Julia, worked at the shop for seven years and her younger daughter Emma, currently works at Imagine alongside her. Joe and Sarah’s good business and art sense has made working at Imagine much more than a job for the Foster family.