by Len Lear and Sue Ann Rybak

How does a successful Chestnut Hill retail storeowner react when the coronavirus pandemic closes her store? Cynthia Fillmore, owner of the Windfall Gallery, 7944 Germantown Ave., has not allowed herself to sink into depression but instead has worked just as hard to prepare for the day when she will be allowed to open her doors to the public again. (The store is called “Windfall” because the word means “a piece of unexpected good fortune,” which is what customers have found there for 36 years.)

“I’ve been doing my best,” Fillmore explained last week, “by adjusting and taking care of business physically at the shop every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. When I am not at the shop, I am taking in as many educational opportunities as possible through Webinars, following up on SBA loan and grant applications, updating social media and working on our website. Of course, I’m also helping my three children with schoolwork as well!

“I have been able to offer virtual shopping, curbside pickup, free local delivery and, of course, shipping anywhere. I go ‘Live’ on Facebook and Instagram every Wednesday to give people an in-depth look at a different artist that we carry. I’ve been calling it ‘Windfall Wednesday.’ Updating my window display weekly is more important now. I want people to be inspired when they walk by. We posted a message of hope along with the ‘Keep It On The Hill’  rainbow last week.”

As a freshman at Rider College in New Jersey, Fillmore initially planned to major in business but soon discovered she loathed poring over endless reports and crunching numbers. After taking a brief hiatus from school, she transferred to Temple University and graduated in 1999 with a degree in broadcast communications. She then worked in television production for eight years before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

“After my third pregnancy, my husband and I decided it would be best for me to stay home and raise our three girls,” said Fillmore, who is in her mid-40s, of Elkins Park. “I left the exciting world of television and entered the crazy world of full-time motherhood.”

Desperate for adult interaction, one day she stumbled across the Windfall Gallery, which carries wares from over 250 artisans, including a large collection of artistic jewelry, folk art, glass ornaments, cards, garden art, home décor and unique handmade gifts.

“Coming from a family of artists, I have always had a love and appreciation for beautiful handmade items,” said Fillmore, whose grandmother was a professional painter and musician. “My grandmother traveled all over the world and would often bring back jewelry. I’ve had a love for jewelry since I was a kid, so it was an easy transition for me.”

She said Kaye Baluarte, who had opened the store in 1984, was looking for someone to work there one or two days a week. “It was a perfect fit,” said Fillmore, who worked at the store for eight years before taking over the business in January, 2014, when Baluarte retired.

“We all need to be creative and think of alternative ways to conduct business,” Fillmore told us last week. “I am extremely grateful for the support system of women business owners in Chestnut Hill. A group of us have been meeting via Zoom daily since the shutdown to collaborate, educate, encourage and just talk shop about how we are all getting through. Some great ideas have come out of these meetings, and it feels good knowing you are not alone in this uncertain time for small businesses.

“The support from the community has been wonderful. We are trying our best to keep our heads above water by paying our bills so we can still be here when the stay-at-home order is lifted. Every little purchase from the businesses in Chestnut Hill allows us to do just that, and we are forever thankful for the support. It truly means so much more now than ever.”

For more information: windfallgallery.com or 215-247-6303. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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