By ALLEN RAU
Yet another new business has set up shop in downtown Jonesborough.
The Mill Spring Makers Market opened July 16 and many of the items offered are local hand-made crafts and artworks. The store provides space for artists to display and sell their creations.
While the market sells many unique products, classes and workshops taught by local artists will also showcase and teach the skills each artist used to create their art.
Owner Melinda Copp, formerly the full-time Main Street Jonesborough Director, purchased the old town hall building in partnership with Corner Cup owner Deborah Kruse.
“It’ll be a little bit of everything,” Copp said, “It’ll be all kinds of different things that our artists want to offer. We’re just getting the feel right now for what our artists that are here want to offer and what our community wants to learn.
“We see that whole corner as where the community comes together and they can sell their things. It’s kind of like a little entrepreneurial center where people can get their feel for their art and display it and sell it to the public.”
While the Corner Cup has been open for almost three years, the idea for Mill Spring Makers Market blossomed when Copp and Kruse were on a business trip in Colorado. According to the two partners, the town sent several local business owners to a marketing and business development workshop for four days of training. From store setup to signage, they covered all matters of small business ownership, and received a valuable tip.
“One of the things they talked to Deb (Kruse) about was owning your space,” Copp said. “And she was sub-leasing the space here (at Corner Cup). This building had been for sale for a while but they weren’t actively selling it. After we came back, the building was put on the market and Deb said ‘Oh my gosh, Melinda. What am I going to do?’”
Kruse said that she feared she would be forced to move the coffee shop somewhere else in town.
The previous owners had an active business there previously, but had moved to Florida and “were not giving the building the attention it needed,” Copp added.
Kruse and Copp jokingly chatted about buying the property, but that joke and the business acumen the two had gained evolved into an opportunity.
“We bought the building together with the idea that I would eventually have a business on the other side. So we have a partnership in the building,” Copp said.
The two spent months brainstorming how the building would best be utilized and two weeks physically transforming it into their vision.
“We worked hard. 14 days, every day, it was manual labor. The other part of it has been a gradual creation. That’s kind of what we envisioned, a soft-opening.
“People come in and it looks inviting. It’s bright, it’s colorful, open and not cluttered. That was the first phase and to keep going, we probably have 15 more phases,” Kruse said, which prompted a laugh from Copp.
They believe the two stores can co-exist and will be mutually beneficial. Copp explained, “We’ve found now that we’ve opened, people definitely come into both places. A lot of times they’ll come in one door and then they’ll go through the middle area (which connects the two stores) and leave out the other door. They’ll go get a coffee and then shop around our place or vice versa.”
While the two have noticed the flow between the stores, Kruse believes there is more potential.
“As we start doing some special events such as highlighting local artists and having a gathering here, like a reception, that’s when it’s going to really start flowing back and forth.”
Space in the Mill Street Makers Market has begun filling up but areas remain for more products and by utilizing social media, Copp said the store has been contacted by additional artists.
“We still have space available and we’re still getting it filled with good variety.”
Artists also have the opportunity to teach classes or host workshops on their specialties. The Market has an area designated as a “makers section”, where the sessions are held. Weekly yarn classes are held on Tuesday afternoons with “Stitch Therapist” Deb Burger. Burger also has a dedicated space in the back of the store where her own business resides. “The Yarn Asylum” sells supplies and tools for knitting, crocheting and more.
“(Burger) has been here probably since the beginning and has grown and evolved and has been very successful,” Copp said.
In addition, regularly scheduled quilting classes taught by Angela Harris are scheduled to begin by the end of August.
Special events are also scheduled to be held in the Makers Section. A Sunflower Paint Party is set for Friday, Aug. 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. For a class fee of $40, attendees will also receive an appetizer. The event is BYOB. Future events include a Lightning Bug Paint Party and a Mosaic Beach Box class.
Plans for a Grand Opening weekend are tentatively scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30, around 11 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting. Saturday, Aug. 31 will feature an artist’s reception from 5 to 8 p.m.
Copp, who now works for the town part-time, said she has always been interested in downtown businesses and knew owning one would be time-consuming.
“(Moving to part-time) was a decision I made on my own. Being a business owner, I knew was going to take up a lot of my time so I knew I couldn’t juggle both (jobs). I felt like I wanted to be more hands-on with the business and we talked back and forth about I could still be full-time and have somebody else help run the business, but that’s really not what I wanted to do. If I wanted to have a business downtown I wanted to have my mark on it.”
Contact info for the Mill Spring Makers Market is 423-557-3499 or email at [email protected]
Info for The Yarn Asylum is 828-553-7545 or at [email protected]