Main Street Makery crafts a community atmosphere

By Tim Drugan-Eppich

Staff Writer

Main Street Makery co-owner, Wendy Brooks,  assists 5-year-old Jillian Williams in the store’s workshop this past Tuesday. The downtown Durham shop offers a different $5 craft every week.
Main Street Makery co-owner, Wendy Brooks, assists 5-year-old Jillian Williams in the store’s workshop this past Tuesday. The downtown Durham shop offers a different $5 craft every week.

Crafty would not be among the adjectives I would choose to describe myself.  In fact, when it comes to artsy pastimes, I never fail to embarrass myself.  But Tuesday, I bit the bullet, bucked up, got in touch with my inner manhood, and went to the Makery in Durham to do their $5 weekly craft.

The Makery is run by two friends.  Wendy Brooks and Sarah Grandy both found their kids grown up and out of the house (Grandy with two and Brooks with five). Without children at home, they decided to take their love of making crafts and start a business together where they could both showcase their work and provide the opportunity for others.

“The dream was always to make more of my love to craft and make stuff,” said Grandy.

“It’s been a fun leap of faith,” Brooks said. “We wanted to try it and see what would happen.”

What happened was a store packed with colorful, plush and sparkling crafts that now exists at 42a Main St. I walked through to get to the back room where I engaged in the craft of the week. 

Already working diligently were Kathryn Mone and her 4 and-a-half-year-old son, Michael.  The craft of the week was pressed-leaf sun catchers, and Mone was cutting out a circle, trying to keep Michael on task.

“Michael pay attention,” she said several times as he went off to shake some sparkling things hanging from the window, or examine the wide array of interesting items around the room.  I couldn’t blame him, it was sensory overload.  But Michael was enjoying himself. His favorite part of making crafts?

“Just making them,” he said.  Simple, my kind of guy.

The sun catcher could be in any shape I wanted, but I decided to keep it simple.  A rectangle was complicated enough for me.  And the paper was already in that shape, so, bingo. 

Brooks was sitting next to me making a sun catcher in the shape of a pumpkin, which assured me that I had not underestimated my artistic ability.  Luckily, she was also willing to help me a tremendous amount, which was needed, because my chubby fingers don’t allow for intricate work which crafts often call for.

As I was bumbling about, cursing only in my head because Michael was sitting there, the door opened and another mother walked in with her two daughters.

“We love it here,” said Laura Williams, who was holding the hands of her daughters Jillian, 5 years old, and Karina, almost 2 years old. “We don’t come as much as we’d like to.”

But they came enough, for the door had barely swung closed when Jillian asked, “What are we doing for the craft?”

“I sometimes like to get messy,” she said when asked why she liked to come and make the crafts.

Meanwhile, I was getting messy, but not without results.  Despite the glue sticking to my fingers, my sun catcher was taking shape.  Well it had always been a shape, rectangular, but it was taking shape in an overall sense as well. 

It probably won’t be hung in a gallery, but Brooks reminded Michael, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, perfect is boring.” And I suppose I could take that phrase to heart as well.

I was quickly realizing the crafts weren’t why most people kept coming back to the Makery.  Since I had been sitting, engaged in my first artistic endeavor in a long time, I felt a sense of calm washing over me.  And I am not normally a calm guy.  But the ambiance of the store instilled a similar feeling to sitting at the beach, listening to the waves crashing against the shore.  Suddenly the rush of schoolwork, job applications and a lack of female interest in me seemed miles away.

I was not alone in experiencing this calming feeling.  Even Grandy said that she enjoys her time spent in the store because of the mental state in which the store puts her.

“It’s such a lovely environment,” she said, only answering my question after assessing my final product.  My sun catcher received a smile as a seal of approval. “I just come to hang out here, it makes me happy.”

Brooks mentioned that it had become a community gathering-place of sorts, with people from all ages coming by both to make the craft and simply pass the time.

“Women my age (mid to late 40s), if they have knitting to do, they’ll just hang out and drink tea,” she said.

“That’s good to know, I’ll have to do that,” said Williams, as her 1-year-old climbed all over her.

Grandy agreed with Brooks’ idea of a gathering place.

“Because I’ve only lived here 6 years, this store has let me integrate into the community a little more,” Grandy said. “It was fine doing crafts in my basement studio in my house, but I enjoy the social aspect of having a community gathering place.”

So it wasn’t surprising when one of the artists selling her crafts at the store popped in for a few minutes to sew, and take in the vibes of the store.  Terry Govan was working on an owl pillow, one of the many crafts she has in the store.

“I enjoy these ladies so much,” Govan said. “I come hang out whenever I can.”

And both Grandy and Brooks wanted to make it clear that it is a store for everyone.

“We’ve had college kids in here, and they ended up staying for a long time,” said Brooks. “We have people that come here on dates.”

They have owned the store a little over a year, and no regrets have crossed their minds.

“We love it,” they both said.

And I am quite pleased with my craft made at the store they love.  As I sauntered out of the Makery, feeling positively artistic, I realized that more college students should know about this.  Because in a world where things are moving at an ever-more-rapid pace, and college students are put at the center of that vortex, there isn’t anything much more calming than to have someone help you create something.  Or more appropriately, make something. Grandy and Brooks are just the people to help you with that.