Jon spends most of his time creating handmade kaleidoscopes to ship to over 120 wholesale accounts, or to sell in the store itself. Suzanne, a former fiber artist with her own line of women’s outerwear and accessories, met Jon at a Buyers Market trade show, and they eventually married. She handles the retail store.
They opened their store to the public about two years ago, but have recently moved and expanded, and now stock the work of 35 artists, all of whom create kaleidoscopes or related products.
The Chesnik Scopes business is multi-generational, starting back in 1980 when Janice and Ray Chesnik became well-known for their classic, collectable styles. Janice’s son Jon joined them in 1990, and today his two sons work part-time as well, helping to create the wheels in a stained glass technique. They form the heart of each unique kaleidoscope design.
These wheels are made using stained or dichroic glass, Brazilian agate slices and millefiore glass, the last of which are still created in a traditional glass-bundling process by Janice and Ray Chesnik. Each style comes with two interchangeable wheels. Changing the wheels front-to-back will result in an entirely different set of kaleidoscopic images. With the styles that come with four distinct wheels, the combinations are virtually endless!
Jon’s mother Janice, although retired, creates very popular, brilliant kaleidoscope quilts which are sold in the store. Sisters Lori Riley and Sheryl Koch have their own line of scopes featured there as well.
Tourists make up a large part of the store’s audience. When Jon works occasionally at his workbench in the front window, it’s not uncommon for a crowd to gathers to watch. “Many people buy kaleidoscopes for others, especially wedding gifts,” says Suzanne, “People want something more memorable, rather than a toaster.”
However, kaleidoscopes are highly collectable. The store’s website has attracted orders from collectors worldwide, and they have turned several local customers into collectors as well. The store’s inventory comes in all price ranges, from simple spur of the moment purchases to one-of-a-kind masterpieces in wood, glass and metal.
Scopes start small, with “teleidoscopes”. Just like kaleidoscopes, they have a triangle of mirrors inside the tubes. However, instead of an object at the end that one would manipulate in some way, they have a clear marble that one looks through, turning everything they’re pointed toward into a kaleidoscopic image.
One very popular line of teleidoscopes is created by David Kalish of California. They have eyepieces that are sized to align to the lens of a cell phone camera lens, enabling the option to photograph the beautiful kaleidoscopic “mandala” or interior image.
Marketing for Suzanne’s retail business has been extensive, using television commercials, local and national print and website advertising, “rack cards” distributed at Cape Cod visitors’ centers, and most hotels, motels and B&Bs, as well as Chamber of Commerce networking.
Intrigued tourists have come from as far away as New Hampshire specifically to visit the store, and see the huge variety of kaleidoscopes, the largest collection in New England and possibly in the entire Northeast U.S. Currently, the store’s website is being redesigned to have a full shopping cart in order to increase year-round business, particularly among the collectors.