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Home of the Makers is giving local artisans a space to call their own

There’s no shortage of talented artists in Hamilton. Between visual art, crafting, clothing design, home goods, and more, our city is full of high quality handmade pieces.

While the monthly James Street North Art Crawls have become a hub for up and coming creators, staking out a spot on the street now requires early afternoon arrival for the evening’s events, and often the streets are so crowded an artist’s work is passed by. But the appeal is there — having a table along the street is not only a free spot to sell wares, but an opportunity to design a personal display.

For makers hoping to transition their product from more than a hobby, there are a couple options. Ensure early arrival each Art Crawl Friday to nab an ideal space to set up shop, or work with a local store on consignment or wholesale and sell stock that route. Unfortunately, both pose potential challenges to these creators, which is where Home of the Makers comes in.

Conveniently situated on James Street North just south of Barton, Home of the Makers is right in the arts district. Partners Mandy Almeida and Fabio Fresco originally opened their first location of Home of the Makers in November 2018, just three doors down from where they are now. After finding the need for more space, the pair moved to 294 James Street North, and increased their square footage more than four times to 3000 sq feet.

 

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Initially the idea came when Fabio was looking for a space to sell his furniture line, Steel City Fab. Furniture can often get lost in stores, with customers assuming it’s a prop or part of the store and not an item for sale. Realizing he could claim any space he rented as an expense, he looked to find an option that would give his pieces the display they deserved in an affordable way.

This lead to the concept for the shop; giving makers individual spaces to sell their product within a larger store. “Home of the Makers is sort of like a micro mall,” explains Fabio. “The shop gives them a chance to see their product in store, see how customers respond, and get a sense of running their own retail space – without the overhead.”

To secure a spot, artists apply and discuss with Mandy and Fabio their product, how they plan to use their space, and how they use social media to promote their line. Since small makers rely too dependently on word of mouth, having an active presence online is key to the success of the crafter. They are then given a choice of various-sized spaces or “booths,” according to what suits their product best and pay a minimal monthly rental fee, with no set contract required.

 

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The unique format allows each creator to display and merchandise their product in any way they wish. This means that the products are not just placed on a table amongst various others (like it would in a typical retail environment), but that their work stands out on its own. “We truthfully see each member in their own space,” says Mandy.

They encourage those renting space to decorate their own booth and to create branding to increase customer recognition. Mandy continues, “They’re presented with a blank canvas and it’s fun to see the creativity of each maker. We love watching each space turn into something different.” Business cards are encouraged, but each booth has the individual company’s social media handle painted on it clearly at the bottom, so that patrons can easily follow their favourites online.

Another advantage of having a mini “storefront” in Home of the Makers is always having someone in person to help clients make a purchase. The staff can help connect a customer with the right maker for their needs, explaining about the local artist and the product they make. In many cases, the staff are able to help facilitate custom orders. With the shop taking care of the day to day, “makers can focus on the growth of their individual business,” says Fabio.

Home of the Makers hosts a diverse collection of products — from artisan soaps to jewelry, greeting cards to candles, decor to baby goods. Mandy and Fabio have also introduced a house clothing line called Help Your City. With every purchase of a t-shirt, sweater, or hat, meals are donated to Mission Services.

The pair are always listening to visitor feedback for the kind of booths and products they’d like to see. Their goal is, just like the local mall, to create options for customers when shopping. They’re also finding that people like to visit again and again to see what’s different. “We’re blown away by what the city is making,” says Mandy. “It’s always changing.”

But one thing hasn’t changed — that Hamilton loves to support local artists and small shops. And Home of the Makers is honoured to be part of that community.

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