Home­made re­tail re­nais­sance

Ar­ti­san mar­kets in­dica­tive of long term trend to­wards lo­cal

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - LOUIS PIN

Joseph Saw­icki’s new ar­ti­san store, gath­ered, will open soon in Sparta, south­east of St. Thomas. The out­let is one of many ar­ti­san mar­kets open­ing in the area, part of a move­ment back to lo­cally sourced prod­ucts in ru­ral On­tario.

Farmer’s Daugh­ter Ar­ti­san Mar­ket opened in Glen­coe in May, the project of Erin Waller-Bur­nett and Maura Do­bie. It’s where they sell their own prod­ucts and the prod­ucts of roughly 30 other ru­ral ar­ti­sans.

Three months ago Bi­lal Khal­ife opened Gal­le­ria 916 in the El­gin Mall, a place where lo­cal crafts­peo­ple joint­edly pro­mote their prod­ucts and take turns run­ning the store.

Within a few months Sparta, a tiny vil­lage south­east of St. Thomas — will have two new ar­ti­san mar­kets, the se­cond open­ing Nov. 18. Joseph Saw­icki, the owner of that store — named ‘gath­ered’ — wants to give lo­cal artists a place to sell their work.

Ar­ti­san mar­kets have not been this pop­u­lar in south­west On­tario in decades, not with glob­al­iza­tion mo­nop­o­liz­ing ev­ery stage of re­tail. But more and more peo­ple are leav­ing big box stores and seek­ing out lo­cal prod­ucts, es­pe­cially those in ru­ral On­tario.

“It’s the real deal,” Saw­icki said. “Here it’s lo­cal, El­gin County peo­ple. The art’s re­ally good, and we’ve got a place where we’re go­ing to rep­re­sent it.”

Saw­icki cre­ates pot­tery, a prac­tice he’s moved from Locke Street — a very lo­cal-friendly neigh­bour­hood in Hamil­ton — to St. Thomas, and most re­cently to Sparta.

His work is on dis­play at ‘gath­ered’ along with the work of eight other lo­cal artists and crafts­peo­ple.

Saw­icki’s store is down the street from Vil­lage Col­lect, an­other ar­ti­san mar­ket in Sparta that opened in early Septem­ber.

“There’s no such thing as a starv­ing artist any more,” Saw­icki said. “It’s a new world where peo­ple are start­ing to push away the [ big box] thing now ... they want some­thing that’s real, not made in China. And with the in­ter­net you can get your thing out to the world.”

“I’ve been re­ally search­ing for some­where lo­cal,” said Paul Brunelle, one of the fea­tured artists at ‘gath­ered’. “Joseph has a great con­cept here ... I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to it.”

There are dif­fer­ent mod­els of ar­ti­san stores but the prin­ci­pal re­mains the same: made lo­cal, for lo­cal peo­ple.

Some places like Khal­ife’s Gal­le­ria 916 are run col­lec­tively. Ar­ti­sans have their prod­ucts in-store and help run the counter as well.

“I was sur­prised to learn how many cre­ative hands are there and how many peo­ple are re­ally cre­at­ing prod­ucts that are amaz­ing ... but they can­not fea­ture [them],” Khal­ife said. “That’s where the idea came from. It’s to com­bine all those cre­ative minds in one place.

“This is a busi­ness model that is a suc­cess,” Khal­ife added. “It has low over­head, it gives op­por­tu­ni­ties ... and it high­lights lo­cal prod­uct.”

The stores them­selves are the re­sult of an “ex­po­nen­tially grow­ing ” trend, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Oana Branzei, busi­ness pro­fes­sor at the Richard Ivey School of Busi­ness at the Univer­sity of West­ern On­tario.

Branzei says the move­ment in­cludes other as­pects too, from farmer mar­kets to craft brew­eries.

“It is a move­ment,” she said. “It lo­cal­izes the econ­omy ... it al­lows com­mu­nity mem­bers to spend, and there­fore in­vest in com­mu­nity mem­bers’ busi­nesses.”

That’s the draw for ru­ral On­tario, Branzei added. The more peo­ple leave ru­ral On­tario the more buy­ing lo­cal then be­comes a ne­ces­sity.

And while the up-front costs of buy­ing lo­cal prod­ucts might be slightly more, there are sig­nif­i­cant long-term ben­e­fits — es­pe­cially in places like Sparta or Glen­coe.

“This move­ment is re­ally driven by self-preser­va­tion,” Branzei said. “It’s not just the ar­ti­san mar­kets, it’s the mi­cro­brew­eries. It’s ev­ery­thing that you can pin to the land.

“This move­ment is driven by the dual mo­tive to dou­ble down on your com­mu­nity, to cre­ate a prod­uct, if you can, that is con­sumed lo­cally by neigh­bours, that is co-pro­duced by neigh­bours ... in a way that makes the com­mu­nity better off, not just the in­di­vid­ual or the pro­ducer,” she added.

Branzei’s words were echoed by Saw­icki. He’ll open his new store Nov. 18, dur­ing which Sparta will have a col­lec­tive open house event.

For the lit­tle town, any ad­di­tion like Saw­icki’s is wel­comed.

“You wouldn’t be­lieve the help,” he said. “The elec­tri­cian ... he’s mak­ing all the wiring in this place safe. The peo­ple in the county, help­ing me, and the peo­ple at the small busi­ness cen­tre. Ev­ery­body is right be­side me. It’s in­cred­i­ble.”

They’re be­side him for a rea­son. In­vest­ing in Saw­icki, Khal­ife, and store­fronts like theirs is ef­fec­tively like in­vest­ing in ru­ral On­tario it­self. @STTJ_Pin lpin@post­media.com

LOUIS PIN/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

PHO­TOS BY LOUIS PIN/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

Erin Waller-Bur­nett and Maura Do­bie at the new Farmerís Daugh­ter Ar­ti­san Mar­ket in Glen­coe ear­lier this year.

The driv­ing force be­hind lo­cal ar­ti­san mar­kets is self-preser­va­tion, says busi­ness pro­fes­sor Oana Branzei. The more peo­ple leave ru­ral On­tario the greater the ne­ces­sity to sup­port lo­cal prod­ucts.

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