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December 6, 2012

Shop offers locally homemade goods

By MICHELLE MILLER
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Three local artists have set up shop and named their business Artists Off Main.

It got its name because it is not located on Cooperstown’s Main Street, according to one of the artists, Karen Katz.

The handcrafted goods are actually not even being sold in the village at all. Artists Off Main can be found nestled between the liquor store and Subway in the Hartwick Commons, about 4 miles away.

The idea to open a shop came about, Katz said, when getting her hair done at the neighboring salon, Shortcuts. Shortcuts used to be in the location where the shop is and the property manager came into the hair salon to talk to the owner about not having rented the space and possible solutions to do so. 

“She was considering doing a short-term seasonal rental,” Katz said. “That sounded perfect to me, and all of the sudden that was like a puzzle piece fitting together.”

Katz said everything happened rather quickly. 

“We peeled wallpaper, painted and moved in,” she said. 

A preview was held on Nov. 16 and a grand opening on Nov. 17.

“From the first day we moved everything in it seemed right. The three of us each brought in our own furniture and our own pieces, and everything seemed to fit perfectly,” Katz said.

Artists and business partner Tracy Helgeson said the women have always talked about one day opening their own shop, especially whenever a business would go out of business. 

“We would always tell one another, ‘oh, that space would be perfect for us to open our own shop,’” she said. 

Originally, business partners Katz of Karen Katz Studio, Mary Dohner, of Mary Phyllis Handknits, and Helgeson, of The Painter’s Farm, wanted to create just a pop-up shop for the holidays. However, they said they have been greatly encouraged by the support and enthusiasm received from friends and members of the community that they are thinking about continuing their business through 2013.

The space has been rented for November and December, but according to Katz, they have an option of keeping the lease going. 

“We are hopeful that we will be able to do that because people have been really, really enthusiastic about the shop,” she said.

“The idea is not just to shop locally, but to shop locally for products that are handmade locally, which is not as easy to do as you may think” Katz added. 

Everything in the shop is made by the three woman and most is sourced locally, according to Katz. Items range in price from $5 lip balm to large paintings that cost more than $1,000.

“Most of what we have is in the $20 to $75 range,” Katz said. “People can come here to this little shop and spend what they would at the mall and get something that is meaningful, handmade and local.”

Some of the more-popular items selling, according to the artists, include hair clips made of vintage glass, neck warmers made of organic cotton, honey, skin creams and boot bracelets.

The women have been selling their goods at various events such as festivals, holiday bazaars and craft shows. 

Dohner knits everything she sells and said she can be seen making things every minute of the day except when sleeping. She said she does not work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, so that has provided her the time to fit running a new business into her schedule. Her hand-knitted items are sold in a shop in Cazenovia and on a freelance basis, and she said she uses a lot of organic and recycled fiber. 

Helgeson lives on a farm in Fly Creek and makes her living painting — mostly of things inspired by her farm.

“My day-job is painting and I have gallery representation,” she said. “I started with small-format paintings just as practice. Then I started selling those and that kind of grew into me wanting to build up our farm. Now we have goats and sheep. I started making things out of the goat’s milk and things like that.”

Katz makes jewelry and sells it at the various venues.

“I’m always carrying my jewelry around to different shops trying to get them to sell it. They are always great about it, and we always go to these shows. I wanted to do less of that. Having a shop, having a fixed location is something I have dreamed about,” Katz said. 

She likes to go antiquing and uses items in her craftswork. Katz said she tries to antique locally to help the local economy the best that she can. 

The shop offers a variety of gift boxes so customers can make customized gift selections. They can start a gift registry. Also available are pre-made gift boxes that include a knitted leaf ornament, a small jar of honey and hair clips for $25. 

Artists Off Main is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Sundays. The artists said they have been open seven days a week, but business has been slow on that day of the week, so they are going to stick with the trend of the other businesses in the Commons and close up shop on Sundays.

As far as the other days of the week, the business partners said, business has been great. So much so, that the women said they have felt a “little freaked out.”

“What happens is we sell stuff off the shelves and have to go home and make more items to fill the shelves. We find ourselves wondering where the time is going to come from,” Katz said. “We will have to get more creative if we continue to run the shop past the holiday season.”

Katz said she has put together a little traveling jewelry-making kit so she can be productive while sitting behind the counter at the shop. Helgeson said she does computer work that she does not want to do at home while at the shop. 

“I think we have all become good at utilizing our time well,” she said. 

For now, items sold are all made by the three women. However, Katz said, if the women do stay after December, the goal is to be able to take on consignments.

“I think if we can keep this going, some of these things are the ultimate gifts and ultimate souvenirs of Cooperstown,” Katz said. “And I think it means something when you give a gift that is made by hand.”