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Jerrie began having the dream when she was a five year old girl growing up in Willimantic CT. She dreamed she came to a house, walked up a staircase and was in an attic filled with antiques. Jerrie continued to have the same dream throughout her childhood in Willimantic and even after she married Norman Tessier, a Willimantic boy who had been a classmate since first grade. Years later, in 1975, she and Norman bought an old house in Bolton, with a flight of stairs that led to an attic filled with old things. "Then," Jerrie said, "I never had the dream again. My dream came true."


Jerrie and Norman began updating their home immediately, adding electric outlets, of which the house only had four, and another bathroom. Norman's passion was gardening and landscaping, and they sold a few dozen geraniums and stone birdbaths in front of an adjoining barn. In 1976 they built a greenhouse that attached to the barn and sold seasonal plants and houseplants. Norman wanted to work from home with his own landscaping business and Jerrie encouraged him to quit his job to do so. "Life's too short. Spend it doing what you love," she told him.


Jerrie had a passion for design and folkart. "In my high school yearbook at Willamantic High, they said that my future career would be as an Interior Designer," she said with a smile. Norman backed her idea and she began a business in the barn. They cleared out old farm equipment and Jerrie sold folkart and primative reproductions. Her keen eye and a talented staff of workers filled the renovated barn with one of a kind pieces of art and accessories from around the country. But the one room barn, with dark lighting, didn't do justice to the artists' works, according to Jerrie.


Meanwhile, Jerrie's mother, Claire had come to live with them in the house. "My mother spent the last seven years of her life in the house. She loved it. The week before she passed away, she bought me the gazebo that's between the house and the barn." The Tessiers have an extensive memorial garden in honor of Claire around the gazebo.


This spring Jerrie and Norman completely renovated the barn - beams to floor - and divided the barn into five rooms. Nothing was planned ahead of time. They worked from Jerrie's newest vision for her shop, Changes of Thyme. The results are stunning. Each room is artiscally composed with unique displays of folkart and primitive reproductions, and one of a kind pieces from juried, award winning artists. Changes of Thyme features the Windsor chairs of Laurence Krause and Pennsylvania Folk accessories. Local artists are also represented. The inventory is extensive and constantly evolving. "I don't like things to stay the same for too long. Our displays and stock change on a very regular basis, sometimes overnight!" Jerrie said with a smile.


The Tessiers love people and have many loyal customers who have become friends. The greenhouse, with it's sitting area, has been refuge to many people who want to sit in a garden atmosphere in repose. One woman recovering from cancer became a volunteer in the greenhouse. Another person came every week just to sit on "the therapist's couch" Jerrie recounts. Jerrie and Norman host an annual Open House during the Holiday Season, with each invitation handwritten. "I envision many different events here that I'm working on", Jerrie said with a twinkle in her eye. My ideas are based on bringing people together, in this peaceful place, surrounded by unique artwork and creativity. The fun in life is in the journey, for me as well as for my customers."


Text by Cynthia Traill Bulach



Our History

Claire's Gazebo

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