It Was Meant To Be
by Suzanne Daub
If you know the meaning of ACK, either you love Nantucket or you’re a pilot. It was her love of Nantucket that inspired artist and photographer Susan Fairgrieve to start ACK 4170TM four years ago in 2017.
Susan and her husband first visited Nantucket in 2000: “My husband and I would always go to The Vineyard. When a friend suggested we visit Nantucket, we thought we’d give it a try. We did, and we never went back to The Vineyard!”
For the next 16 years, Susan and Scott visited Nantucket early summer and autumn—during the “shoulder seasons.” “We stayed in different parts of the island, exploring and spending a lot of time on the water. Scott loved to surfcast. We loved the beauty, the beaches, the coast…And we used to sit on a bench on Main Street, watching the people go by and dreaming of when we would live here.
“One day during a Nantucket trip in September of 2012, Scott bought a laminated chart of Nantucket and spent the evening studying it. The next morning, he said ‘I have a surprise for you. Bring your camera: we’re renting a boat,’ but he wouldn’t tell me what he had in mind. Out by Great Point, he cut the engine, took out his rod and cast. Suddenly seals started popping up all around us. That was my surprise! I took out my camera and started shooting.”
That island trip was Scott’s last, he passed that December.
“I was working in our garage on a hot summer day and thinking about Nantucket. When I went inside to cool off, I had a sudden inspiration—from Scott, I think —I sat down at my computer and created the logo. ACK = Nantucket… 41 70 for the island’s latitude and longitude (abbreviated) … I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with what I had created, but I knew it was meant to be…a sign from above guiding me to our happy place. I trademarked it.”
Susan had hundreds of photos from trips to Nantucket she had taken with Scott over the years, and as a photographer and graphics professional, she knew she had the raw materials for an island business.
Instagram came first: in 2016, Susan started posting her island photos, branded with the logo she designed at @ack4170 They met with an immediate response! For years, Susan had been making and selling card sets and her photographs wholesale to shops around the country as Coastal Collection. With her Nantucket endeavor, she “flipped the switch” from selling her work to shops to buying work from other small makers to sell in hers. Initially it was online only.
By spring of 2017, she had built a website selling her photographs and card sets, along with branded pillows, towels, glassware, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and cutting boards—all crafted by small makers. That same year she returned to Nantucket for Daffodil Festival, and, to launch the site, Susan handed out hundreds of handmade Daffy corsages with her ACK 4170TM logo on button. As with her Instagram, ack4170.com was instantly popular. “I realized that I really could open a store here,” she explained.
A physical shop on Nantucket was a goal from the start of the ACK 4170TM venture. She had explored possibilities in January of 2017 (a few months before launching her website), but the shop space she negotiated fell through. At the end of 2017, the owner of the space she had wanted to rent reached out to ask Susan if she was still interested. “I said YES, packed up and left for Nantucket. It was meant to be!”
From the day she opened her doors to this summer of 2021, Susan has expanded her ACK 4170TM offerings, still featuring small makers. “It’s so rewarding working with ‘the little guy,’ as I once was when I sold my work to shops. And it means what you see in my store, you won’t see elsewhere on Nantucket, she explained.” Susan still creates items she sells. Her photographs can be purchased framed or as sets of cards, and her decoupage shells are very popular (you may see her on Nantucket beaches early in the morning and at sunset gathering the shells she transforms ). “I’m always looking for and finding new makers whose products I can carry. I love working with them: many have become friends.”
Popular this season in ACK 4170TM are her shells, baseball caps, candles, and her ACK 4170TM totes and her “shuck it” bags. Every week Susan Fairgrieve brings in new products to feature, so many of her patrons visit her shop on Federal Street several times a month.