We at Antique Sound Workshop are greatly saddened by the recent loss of Melissa Marks, one of our closest friends and most valued colleagues in the music instrument world. Melissa and her husband David were from 1974 until February 2007 equal partners in and co-owners of Folkcraft Instruments in Winsted, Connecticut. David was the instrument designer and led a small team of personally-trained craftsmen and women in their construction; Melissa supervised the small office staff and was the business brains behind both the manufacturing operation and the retail music shop located in the same building. Their tiny store was a mecca for amateur and professional folk musicians throughout New England and the northeastern United States, and they had many international customers from around the globe as well.
My business relationship and personal friendship with Melissa and David dated back to 1986. At the time, I wanted to add some relatively inexpensive folk harps to our catalogue to complement the more expensive and specialized historical harps that we had been importing from a Scottish maker. A good mutual friend of ours, Tom Bailey, who owned a small music store in Brunswick, Maine, recommended the Folkcraft instruments to me as being of good quality and the Markses as being excellent, friendly people with whom to do business. Antique Sound Workshop shortly thereafter added the entire line Folkcraft instruments, all made by hand in their small workshop in the northwest corner of Connecticut, to our offerings: not just the three models of folk harps that were our original interest, but also a rich assortment of plucked and bowed psalteries as well as Appalachian and hammered dulcimers in both finished and kit form. In return, we supplied recorders to Folkcraft for resale in their two retail locations in Winsted and Kent, both towns located in the beautiful Litchfield Hills of northwestern Connecticut. It was a truly rewarding symbiotic relationship that lasted for over twenty years.
What started out as a business relationship soon became a warm personal friendship as well. In addition to my periodic trips to Winsted to pick up and deliver instruments, I had many frequent, long, informative, and highly entertaining telephone calls with Melissa, who had a great sense of humor, an infectious laugh, and a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the musical instrument business and everyone in it. Our conversations also ranged over a wide variety of topics unrelated to our business dealings; Melissa and David, like Julie and myself, shared common interests in fine dining and wines, European automobiles, and a wide variety of other topics and mutual passions. On our visits to their beautiful lakeside home in Barkhamsted, just five minutes from the Folkcraft workshop and store in Winsted, we quickly learned that she was an excellent gourmet cook and a charming hostess as well.
In February of last year, Melissa called to tell me that she and David were selling Folkcraft Instruments to a new owner, that the retail store would be closed, and that the workshop itself would be packed up and moved to its new home in Indiana. David moved to Indiana for a period of time to assist the new owner in setting up the equipment, training employees, and beginning production. I had known for some time that the Markses, after more than thirty years in the musical instrument business, wanted to retire and spend their remaining working years doing something very different and hopefully less strenuous. The actual news, while not wholly unexpected, was nevertheless very sad, as it marked the end of a long and wonderful business relationship that we had both treasured for over two decades.
Melissa, never one to take retirement seriously, shortly thereafter accepted a position as a investment counselor with a nationally-known financial firm in Hartford. Sadly, she served in that position for only a few months before learning of her terminal illness in January of this year. Melissa Marks passed away on July 30th after a six-month struggle with brain cancer. A memorial gathering to celebrate her life was held on Saturday, September 20th, at the former Folkcraft workshop in Winsted. It was attended by many relatives, friends, customers, former employees, professional and amateur musicians, and music industry colleagues including ourselves. There were many laughs and fond reminiscences amongst the tears. It was entirely fitting that the gathering was held in the now empty workshop where Folkcraft instruments were lovingly made and to which Melissa had dedicated so many years of her life.
David H. Green, director
Antique Sound Workshop, Ltd.
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