Like so much of the couple’s life story, the evolution of their shop came about organically. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Joe’s position at WHOI had him working at sea much of the year. At that time, Anne got to know fellow artists like Mary Mavor, and Shirley and Bill Dunkle, and they started the Craft Studio, a small nonprofit group that ran a little shop on the corner of the Queen’s Buyway in Falmouth. “The people who were in it were just doing it for fun,” Joe recalls, “but a lot of people in that group were really talented, and it gave them a springboard into other things.”
One day, Joe came home from his full-time job and reported that his work had ceased to be fun. Changes in the times, he recalls, were bringing about changes at his job. “We gave ourselves a year and a half to find ourselves something to do,” Anne says. Through the Craft Studio, Anne had connected with another local artisan, Bernie Kelly, a silver and goldsmith. Soon thereafter, he bought the house across the street from them.
“We used to wander over [to his house], and he taught me how to forge and solder a bit,” says Anne. At the time, Kelly owned Buckle Works, a specialty buckle business, and was complaining about it. “At that point, everybody had long hair, no bras, bell bottom pants, and BIG buckles,” says Anne. “He was busy and had to hire someone to do the buckles.” So, one day, Anne and Joe offered to purchase the business. After some reluctance, Bernie agreed. “He gave us all the equipment and gave Joe his one-day’s training, and we went into the buckle business.”
Many thought they were crazy. “The oceanographic people I worked with were horrified,” laughs Joe. “They said, ‘What? You’re leaving to make belt buckles?’ Cause no one ever left WHOI, you see.”
Over the years, the Barretts’ business has expanded and contracted, and in 1990, they got into the antique trade with fervor. They attended craft shows and antique fairs and traveled around the country. Today, they are members of the Society of Cape Cod Craftsmen and the Artisans Guild of Cape Cod. They design and sell their buckles wholesale. Throughout the growing season, they also sell produce out of the shop, including asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries, butternut squash, and, according to Anne, “anything we have extras of.” Joe also has a small side business doing custom rototilling.