TRAVERSE CITY — When Brad Richardson and Cat O’Connor moved to the area, finding a place where they could sell handmade goods and make a profit proved problematic.
The Illinois natives found a solution.
West Bay Handmade opened just over a month ago in the lower level at 346 E. Front St.
“When we moved here we had a hard time finding a place to sell our product locally, so we decided to open our own place,” O’Connor said.
“It’s a variety of locally handcrafted items: Furniture, jewelry, home decor, apothecary,” said Richardson, in describing the place. “We’re trying to offer a variety. We’ve taken a little bit from every category.”
O’Connor and Richardson said the emphasis is on the maker in the store, with an even bigger stress on where it was produced.
“Everything is (from) northern Michigan,” Richardson said.
“We have about 50 local vendors,” O’Connor added. “It’s nice to meet the people making it. It’s a little more in touch with the community.”
Items in the store are sold on consignment. There are four 5½ booths in one corner that artists can rent out.
“We have a waiting list for the booths,” O’Connor said.
The booths currently feature work from Logan and Trevor Miller, Peggy French, Sally Peckham and the Timberlee Co.
The latter features bladesmith work from Richardson.
There’s also a table from Heartlander Supply which features signs, furniture and candles from the store owners.
“We sell a lot of our own stuff,” O’Connor said.
The owners are in the process of finishing a backroom down the hall where artists and vendors can hold workshops and classes.
The hallway that leads to the classroom got white paint on the walls and ceiling to brighten up what was a dark treatment when it was home to The Coin Slot and a tackle shop.
“We wanted to make it look not as much as a basement,” Richardson said.
Attracting patrons to a basement store can be a challenge.
The couple said the store opening on June 30, right at the start of the Cherry Festival, got things going and an official grand opening was held on Saturday.
“We weren’t sure, but it’s been really nice though; a lot of steady traffic,” Richardson said. “Being between Little Fleet and the downtown area, we catch a lot of the foot traffic. Plus on the weekend they have live music (outside on the main level) and then there’s the food trucks.
“It’s also good to have so many vendors sell here. They’re kind of like our word of mouth. Also we’re very active on social media.”
West Bay Handmade is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.