By Cole Caviston, Staff Writer
Tucked back in the alley between the Candy Bar and the Durham House of Pizza is a small store with a large entrepreneurial spirit. It’s called the Main Street Makery, a recently opened arts and crafts supply store.
Inside, you’ll find shelves stocked with homemade jewelry, all colorful and eye-catching. Paintings, sketches and necklaces share shelf space with soaps and scented candles, with the occasional stuffed animal nestled in between.
Gaze to your left and look against the back wall of a workshop space. A colored banner spells out the mantra that store owners Wendy Brooks and Sarah Grandy wish to communicate to their customers: Dream, Risk, Create.
Main Street Makery opened in May, before the end of spring semester, but both Brooks and Grandy believe that the end of summer has renewed student interest in their products.
“We have students in here all the time, and we’ve heard nothing but positives,” Brooks said. “I’m noticing more students coming in here thinking of us for gifts or cards.”
“We’ve been approached by several [Resident Assistants] — possibly around finals time — to just allow them to engage in an activity and to de-stress a bit,” Grandy said.
Most of the products in the store are supplied by local artists — 72 exactly. Most of those 72 are locals from New Hampshire, with a handful from Massachusetts and Maine. About 60 percent of the proceeds go to the artists, while the remaining 40 percent stays in the store.
The artists themselves set prices for the products, with occasional input given by Brooks and Grandy.
“Most of the artists, if they have the experience, will have a sense of how much they want to sell their work for,” Brooks said.
Workshop spaces are set aside in the shop for customers to learn about the crafts. Here, classes are held in the shop on a weekly basis, ranging from knitting, decoupage, needle felting and pentangle, a “form of meditative doodling” as Brooks describes it.
These classes have proven to be very popular with all members of the community and a strong draw to the store.
“All ages and interests come,” Grandy said. “There are classes for three-to-four year olds, and from there, sky’s the limit. It’s a pretty broad range of instructors … that are teaching the classes.”
Running Makery is a collaborative process in which Brooks and Grandy hold separate duties. Grandy is responsible for updating the store’s Facebook page and keeping track of the store’s expenses and bank deposits, while Brooks sends out emails to customers signed up to the store’s email.
But they each take turns when it comes to the creative side of the business, even when their interests vary. Brooks tends to be more involved in jewelry making and etchings, while Grandy sews.
“In the last location that I lived, I started dreaming of this kind of craft café experience, where people could come in and do a craft from a menu,” Grandy said. “And from that built incorporating stuff that I’m making into the larger picture of the store.”
Brooks and Grandy met at a children’s birthday party where Brooks was intrigued by the similarities between Grandy’s family and her own.
“Her kids looked interesting,” Brooks said. “Her older son had long hair, and one my kids had longer hair, and I thought, huh, that’s an interesting family.”
They soon became kindred spirits, but it was over three years later when they decided to go into business together. Their first idea was to open a store and collaborate with many artists and where responsibilities would be shared.
“Then we thought ‘It might be an easier, more manageable model where it’s just the two of us running the store,” Brooks said.
After looking at a few areas in Durham, they finally settled on the building that used to house Bindy’s Boutique for five years.
Three months later, the store was open for business, and Brooks and Grandy have been optimistic about the attention their crafts have received from both the Durham community and the student bodies of UNH and the Durham public schools.
The flow of customers to the store has been, the owners admit, one-sided demographic wise.
“It can be a little female-centric at times,” Grandy said. “There are not many men signing up to learn how to knit.”
But the launch of their business has excited both owners and both are happy with their arrangement so far.
“Thinking about ways to be creative is what I’m most excited about,” Brooks said.
“I think that what works great is having someone else here putting their creative energy into it and meet in the middle,” Grandy said.
Right now, preparation for a neighborhood AlleyFest on Sept. 27 has taken up much of Brook’s and Grandy’s attention. A collaboration between Makery and the Candy Bar, it will be an outdoor event held in the Alley just in front of the store with live music from the community, food and a painting of a mural on the wall of the Candy Bar.
The Makery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.