Small businesses supporting hundreds of local artisans
Some small businesses have taken entrepreneurship a step further by sourcing all of their products from local artisans, creating a robust network that celebrates local commerce.
With their diverse array of handmade and novelty items, these stores are essentially a one-stop shop for holiday gift buying and for supporting dozens of local merchants on Small Business Saturday, which is on Nov. 26.
One such retailer is Glean, a tiny, basement-level shop that’s flourishing with one-of-a-kind trinkets made from recycled and repurposed materials, all fashioned by local handcrafters, including jewelry, decor, trinkets and small furniture.
Dawn McCombs opened Glean on the corner of West First Avenue and North High Street in 2013. Following a 17-year teaching career, owning a small business was new territory for her.
“I just had this calling to go back to my creative roots,” McCombs said. “When you’ve been working for a long time, you sometimes become desensitized to what your passions really are, so I did some unearthing to find that.”
She initially stocked Glean with her own handmade goods as well as items made by about 10 of her friends. To procure additional merchandise she went to various craft shows to find interested local artists, such as Daisy Mae, who designs wine stoppers, bottle openers and other accessories with snippets of vintage maps.
Today, Glean sells handmade goods from 80 local crafters, said McCombs, who makes about 30 percent of the merchandise in the store. And because she personally selects her vendors, she knows details about each product, as well as the history of the maker.
“I think that helps, because in our society today we’ve lost that element a little bit,” she said. “It’s a bit of nostalgia that we don’t get anymore, like back in the olden days when you’d go to the baker or the butcher.”
A similar store practically shouts its business philosophy through its name — Celebrate Local, which transitioned from a farmer’s market in the parking lot of Easton Town Center into a year-round storefront at the mall in 2011.
Celebrate Local represents more than 300 Ohio farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs, said Lynn Stan, co-owner of the store, which opened a second location in Cincinnati in 2015. The shop sells everything from apparel and accessories to health and beauty products to food and wine.
“Small businesses are so important to the well-being of a community — economically, socially, culturally — but sometimes they’re not as loud as other companies,” Stan said, describing Celebrate Local as an “entree for small business.”
The value in buying local is that it keeps more money in Ohio’s economy, Stan said.
“It’s important for people with big purchasing power to buy local, to keep money from leaving the community,” Stan said. “A community begins with small business, and Celebrate Local is about remembering the little folks.”
Simply Vague, another retailer that sells Ohio-made products, began weaving a web of local artisans in Delaware in 2012. The small business has since opened two stores in Tuttle Mall and Polaris Shopping Center, said Andrea Archibald, who owns the store with her husband, Nate Archibald.
The store sells Ohio-themed products from roughly 250 local artisans, including apparel, home decor and jewelry.
The two lived in Ostrander before starting the business.
“There’s not many places to shop from out there, and we have always liked shopping locally, so we were driving really far to get everything,” Andrea Archibald said. “So we decided to house everything under one roof and make it more accessible to shop local.”
When the couple opened the original Simply Vague in Delaware (now closed), they were working in real estate and had no visions of the store becoming their full-time job. “We had no retail background,” Archibald said.
Now the two are managing five stores throughout Ohio, three of which are spin-off stores called The Direction.
McCombs, Stan and Archibald each expressed a high regard for their vendors.
“It’s become more than just a store they sell in; it’s become a network of people who are there to help each other,” said Archibald, who started a community-based organization in 2015 called Ohio Creative Collective, which connects Ohio-based small business owners, artists, authors and entrepreneurs through monthly events. She also runs the Made Local Marketplace Show, which takes place four times a year in Columbus and features more than 100 local artisans.
“A lot of the people that I’ve talked to think that it must cost so much money to start your own business, but there are ways around that if you’re creative enough,” McCombs added. “Find what your passion is and start off in little markets. You can’t fail if you’re doing something that you love.”
This story was originally published in The Columbus Dispatch’s 2016 Big Book of Savings on Nov. 20, 2016.