Turning a creative outlet, hobby or passion into a business can be an intimidating endeavor. The Maker and Merchant owner Coles Doyle sought to create a space where local small business owners could test out a physical retail space. Her work with the Auburn Mall allowed her to establish a storefront for this eclectic, boutique-style store which is home to 40 different local businesses.
“There's a lot of vendor-based stores or antique malls where people have booths, but we wanted one cohesive-type store where you can still see who you're shopping from and know that they are local,” Doyle explained. “When you walk in, it looks like a retail store.”
Weaving through the store, there are cards on each display indicating the name of the business and where they are located. The locally curated goods sold at The Maker and Merchant range from candles and home goods to apparel and jewelry.
Venders like Wendy Moore, owner of Wedowee, AL-based Peaceful Porch Candle Company, had the opportunity to see her products on display at the friends and family opening event of The Maker and Merchant on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Her candle business was formed four years ago in the wake of her husband’s battle with cancer. She was inspired to create the company as a way to give back to the community that gave her and her family so much support during that trying time.
“I’m just so thankful because the more we grow, it's not about us, it's about being able to give back to others," Moore explained. "That's what's important to our family.”
She had never poured a candle until she received a build-your-own candle kit in a subscription box. From that point on, she fell in love. Her candles are now featured in 300 stores nationwide.
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“It's not real to me," Moore said. "Even when we walked up to our large candles in the display window, [my husband] and I were like, ‘What? that's crazy!'”
Another vender, Brad Harris, turned his lifelong passion of wood working into a business called Knots and Holes.
“Our passion is really a farmhouse feel," Harris said. "That's who we are. My whole family has a background in farming. The whole lifestyle really drives us, and so the things that we do are really based off of that that desire for the lifestyle of the old.”
Harris never intended to expand his business beyond his community until his friend suggested he apply for a spot at The Maker and Merchant.
“I really didn't think too much about it to begin with and said, ‘Yeah, that'd be nice, wouldn't it,’" and just kept going,” Harris recalled. “The next day, it just stayed on my mind. I was like, ‘You know, things just don't happen by chance.’ I just don't believe that, so I filled [an application] out. And here we are.”
Seeing his hard work displayed in a storefront like The Maker and Merchant was a first-time experience for Harris.
“We mostly sell online and word of mouth," Harris said. "So, this is an adventure. I mean, it's brand-new. So, we’ll see how it goes, but we're excited about it.”
Alicia Storbeck is the founder of Initial Outfitters, a direct sales company based in Auburn.
“We wanted to make a difference, and we knew that with this type of a business we could pour into the ladies that are selling our merchandise,” Storbeck said. “The income that they make is going to be something that really impacts their family on a very personal level. But, we also have a very large philanthropic arm of the company where we feed and educate children around the world and here at home.”
Venders at the soft opening event got the opportunity to not only see their new storefront but also shop and mingle with other venders and products.
“It’s really fun," Storbeck said. "Because we're here, in the middle of such high-quality vendors, it feels really, really nice. The level of quality in The Maker and Merchant is amazing. So, it's an honor to have merchandise next to all of these folks.”
COVID-19 limited many of these small businesses in their opportunities to market or sell products face-to-face. The space cultivated by The Maker and the Merchant reopens those opportunities to support 40 of the community's small businesses.
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