The Fantastic Umbrella Factory was established in 1968 by Robert Bankel on an old farm homestead in Charlestown, RI.
He started in one small building, built in early 1800's as a Temperance Hall, selling penny candy and unusual gifts. He soon expanded his operation into the old barn, increasing his volume and adding a Cafe in the rear. He also brought in local craftsman to work and sell their wares on site.
All the while he was beautifying the landscape of the complex. He retired from this project in 2008 and opened The House of 1833 Bed and Breakfast in Old Mystic, Ct. Robert passed away in 2019. His partner Evan Nichols still runs the B and B.
Today the complex looks like this:
First of all we have SMALL AXE PRODUCTIONS which has become the anchor store of the complex. David M. Turano, Jack Wright, and Peter Esak started the shop back in 1974. Jack does stained glass work, Peter blows glass and David make pottery. Peter retired in 2021.
Little by little we added other merchandise to the shop and now it's almost like a department store with out departments. We sell our hand crafted wares and also jewelry, clothing, hand crafted stuff from all over the world, musical instruments (lots of drums), Tapestries , and much more.
We have, 3 Emu's, George, Penelope, and Lily (who happens to be a male) and lots of chickens roaming the grounds. Pet at your own risk but don't chase the birds around. Visitors can purchase chicken feed at Small Axe for a small fee.
The Umbrella Factory Gardens had been there almost as long as Small Axe but the founder Patrick Shellman had to retire after the 2022 season. The business has been replaced by Bob Trainor and is now called RUSTIC GARDEN offering lush tropical and seasonal plants and a large array of unique garden containers, accessories and décor.
FRILLS is another shop that has been around for a few years. Suzanne Terry has a great collection of clothing, jewelry and very different gifts.
THE GENERAL STORE has been at the Factory for several years sells all sorts of gifts for the young and young at heart. Regina has fashioned the shop after the original Umbrella Factory store.
Tom and Nancy Cook run BLOCK PRINTS GRAPHICS in “the Shack” by the fountain, selling Nancy’s original designs printed on all kinds of garments for children and adults. Also Tom sells his hand carved pendants from his original designs.
The PURPLE SHELL owned by Alan Hazard of the Narragansett tribe, a Wampum master. The shop is an authentic native trading post with Wampum, native crafted jewelry and many other hand crafted items around the Ocean and Eastern Native life.
THE WICKED CANDLE SHOP, run by Jerome and Julie offers handmade local candles with a twist! We also carry many other gifts made by local artists and carry a unique selection of Grateful Dead & Phish merchandise. Something for everyone.
SUGAREE’S is the newest shop also owned by Jerome and Julie. It is an old fashioned candy shop offering retro candy as well as a candy buffet and large soda pop selection.
There are several beautiful perennial flower gardens on the property. They were established by the previous owner, Robert Bankel. He also planted lots of interesting trees. We have a beautiful Umbrella Pine, a handsome Dawn Redwood and many other interesting species.
The house on the property was built in 1810. The barn that housed the original Umbrella Factory was also built in the early 1800's. Unfortunately that building burned down in 1989. That site is now the home of Small Axe Productions. We are working hard to make the Umbrella Factory an enjoyable and affordable destination for locals and visitors alike.
David and Linda Turano