Leading up to our next Shop Local Day event on Saturday, November 8, we’re highlighting some of the participating merchants throughout the region who are offering shoppers a little extra to come out and support their community businesses.
Chances are you’ve seen the work of the Podds, whether it be at a local restaurant, a neighbor’s house, an art gallery or strolling the grounds at Monticello. Their handmade pottery – Karen and Robert Podd are owners of The Poddery in Mathews County – has a way of standing out.
For more than 40 years, the Podds have been offering unique pottery pieces out of their home/studio. A couple pieces – a cylinder-shaped dish that has proven versatile (customers have been known to bake foods, place candles, plant bulbs or pot plants in it) and a chip-and-dip platter – have been big hits: “We’ve sold thousands of them,” Karen Podd said. But the one-of-a-kind pieces, says Karen, are the cream of the crop. “As an artist, I just have to do them.”
Learn more about The Poddery in the profile below.
Business Name: The Poddery
Contacts: Karen or Robert Podd
Contact information: Website or by phone at 804.725.5956.
Shop Local Day Deal: Mention Shop Local Day and receive 10 percent off all purchases.
Store information: The Poddery is located at State Route 660, Foster, VA, 23056 (a quarter mile past the Foster post office). Visit the studio from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week.
Chesapeake Bank: What does shopping local mean to you?
Karen Podd: It means keeping the money in the county…The domino theory: If we can keep the money in the county, it can give someone a job and promote the business and help them spend money. Considering the gas prices today, it really is more economical to shop in the county instead of getting in your car and going somewhere.
CB: What is one of the biggest challenges you face, and how are you dealing with it?
KP: One of the biggest challenges is just to get people here. We’re not in downtown Mathews. Just getting people to come and see what we do. Once we get them here, they usually buy something. Because we’re high-quality crafts, we’ve been known in the Tidewater area for the past 45 years. We’re part of Made in Mathews, 12 artists who joined together and open their studios. We also have our work in the Bay School in town and a small display of our work in the information center in town.
CB: What has been the greatest success in your business?
KP: Disney World has some of our work at their convention center in Orlando. Our garden pots are in the garden at Monticello. Berret’s restaurant in Williamsburg has numerous pieces of ours, including a 24-foot piece behind their bar. Just a general statement, nobody does what we do; nobody does the designs that we do, really unique takes on regular stuff, like fireplace fronts, kitchens and mosaic walls. That’s what we’re known for.
CB: How did you get your start?
KP: We got started because clay ceramics was one of my classes, part of my curriculum at Northern Illinois University. Robert was in the Navy at that time. The Navy brought us to the area, and I became an art teacher for the Mathews Public School System. We lived in Norfolk for about five years, and I became more and more proficient with my clay work and started entering local shows. Robert got out of the Navy, and we decided to stay in the area. By that time, studios had started to carry my work…We kept looking and looking and looking and found this old place here. I was teaching at Granby High School and teaching a lot of Granby wrestlers, who came up here on weekends and helped us gut our house and build our studio [in 1972]. We started doing art shows along the East Coast, and our work was featured in galleries in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Richmond. The rest is history: Now people come to us.
CB: How many art shows do you think you’ve done over the years?
KP: Oh, lord. I would say easily over 500.
CB: What made you take the entrepreneurial plunge?
KP: There was passion there, but we were outdoors people. We were always going to what was called at that time Seashore State Park. Most of my designs, I was really interested in nature… [Starting the business] it just seemed like the right thing to do. We always felt that if it didn’t work out, we could go back to the city and get our jobs back. And we had the support of our families. It was the right move at the right time.
CB: Do you have a favorite piece?
KP: I’m proud of a lot of the one-of-a-kind pieces that I’ve done. The ones that have given me the biggest thrill were Disney World buying a piece and doing work for Monticello. It’s a thrill when you’re looking at a garden magazine and see a picture with our pots from Monticello.
CB: How do you stay involved or give back to the community?
KP: We have always donated work for any group, the fire department, silent auction for PTAs. Also, we have donated reproduction tiles at Tompkins Cottage in the style of the 1800s. We’ve demonstrated at local events. We’ve talked to women’s groups and garden groups. We’ve always been involved with our community.