Sugarloaf Mountain Works was founded in 1975 by Deann and George Verdier, a school teacher and an engineer, who envisioned a well-curated art and crafts market where top-quality goods could be sold at a low overhead cost to artisans. That original concept of providing a low-overhead marketplace where artists and craftspeople could sell their unique creations direct to the public remains the cornerstone of Sugarloaf Craft Festivals today.
The first-ever Sugarloaf Craft Festival was held in Gaithersburg, Md. in the spring of 1976. Over 10,000 people came out to see the 200 artisans we had gathered together. A success was declared by all and Sugarloaf Mountain Works was well on its way to the reputation it has carved out in the art and crafts worlds today.
The focus of these shows has always been on contemporary crafts and fine art. Some top-quality folk art is accepted, but most of what’s considered “country crafts” or “home crafts” is not suited to the Sugarloaf niche. These craft forms are adequately represented in the thousands of local free craft shows throughout the nation. Sugarloaf shows needed to be something special — a real treat for our audience to enjoy — which is why we implement a jury process to ensure the best of the best hand-crafted arts and goods are sold at Sugarloaf.
From the very beginning, Sugarloaf Craft shows were juried by images to maintain quality for our discriminating audience. Judgment of each application is based on quality of design, workmanship and materials. It has always been more important to maintain the quality of our shows than to simply rent out spaces. In the early years, there were many shows where we turned away hundreds of artisans even though all spaces were not sold. Quality is, and has always been, the key to the Sugarloaf reputation.
Over the past four decades, Sugarloaf Craft Festivals have grown in popularity. Artists from across the nation now compete for the 200-350 spaces available in each show. Eleven shows are held each year in major metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore and central New Jersey.
Industry publications that rank the popularity of arts and crafts festivals regularly place Sugarloaf Craft Festivals in the top 100 and often in the top 10 in the entire U.S. But our most important report card comes from our loyal customers. Each year Sugarloaf Craft Festivals attract nearly 200,000 patrons who purchase over $20 million in original arts and crafts direct from the artists. Attendance grows gradually each year and sales continue to grow for our artists.
By providing this maker-focused, touch-based marketplace, Sugarloaf and the attending public has made it possible for thousands of working artisans to leave their "regular" jobs to pursue careers that they truly love. When they buy new houses, send their children to college or even get new vehicles, we know that this is all possible because the public has embraced these shows and enthusiastically supported the fine artisans who regularly exhibit at Sugarloaf.
After all this time, Sugarloaf Mountain Works is still a small business. We currently have less than 10 full-time employees and work out of a single office in Germantown, MD. The founders still attend every show and work in the business every day. We try to provide personal service to all the customers and friends in the Sugarloaf Family.
Please feel free to contact us with your thoughts, recommendations or questions. We are always looking for ways to improve our service and find that the best ideas often come from our customers.
Thanks to all of you for your support and suggestions throughout the years. We look forward to serving you for years to come.