Since it seems to be local crafts week here, today I’m going to highlight one of the most interesting and innovative businesses to come out Portland’s active craft and vintage movement: The Merchant Company, which opened this spring and has quickly become one of the most interesting and talked-about businesses in the city. Co owners Giselle LaFrance and Dunja Von Stoddard have created something that is an ingenious cross between a craft fair and an antiques mall, and in the process have built a way for the creative minds and hands of Portland to get their creations into the hands of people who will love and cherish them.
The way the shop works is pretty simple: local artisans pay rent to the store for a booth or a portion of a booth. Then you come in and browse, find six things you can’t live without, and pay for them all in one go. The artisan gets 100% of the purchase price, you get cool stuff, and The Merchant Company strikes another blow for justice, crafting, and the Buy Local movement.
They also offer crafting classes and their very active facebook page highlights special deals and great finds from their vendors. The diversity of the vendors (seriously: there is vintage stuff, handmade textiles, presswork cards, pottery, jewelry, bath and body stuff, wall art, rugs, chalkboard paint, toys …. if someone can make it you’ll probably find it here) ensures a diversity of stock, a diversity of price-points, a diversity of esthetics, and every time you visit you’ll find something that wasn’t there before.
My one (very small) frustration was that the individual booths aren’t always clearly marked, something I discovered as I was trying to highlight vendors for this post and discovered that I couldn’t always tell who was responsible for my favorite things in the shop. So, please excuse me if I mis-attribute anything in this post.
The Hippy Hamper has a small stack of storage rolls (which I failed at getting a good photo of, so this very blurry photo above will have to suffice) that would be the perfect gift for any crafter in your life. About a year ago, we were given a crayon roll for my son, and ever since I’ve become addicted to storing things in rolls of cloth – crayons, paintbrushes, craft scissors, you name it … if it’s rattling around in a drawer it will be safer and more organized rolled up in cloth.
I spent a long, long time looking over the cards and knitwear sold by I Want Pulp. At Picnic arts on Sunday we saw tons and tons of letterpress cards (and they’re well represented at The Merchant Company, too) and the quirky, handmade, colorful esthetic of the Pulp cards is refreshing. (Also, I want to award them bonus points for having a beautiful It Gets Better card.)
I have to confess that I don’t know the vendor responsible, but in the back corner near the sewing machines and crafting classrooms were two baskets that made my heart leap for joy, for in them were a carefully curated group of vintage holiday ornaments, sold for the super reasonable price of $1.00 each. Ornaments are my go-to gift for co-workers, neighbors, and anyone else I know that needs a simple holiday gift, but ornaments you can buy cheaply are often poor quality and would be embarassing to give as gifts. Not these. These cheerful glass ornaments would be a perfect gift for anyone who puts up a tree or just needs some holiday cheer in their life.
Now, it just so happens that tonight is the Portland Downtown District’s Merry Madness event, where over 70 downtown merchants will be open late, from 5 to 10 pm. It also just so happens that The Merchant Company is one of the stores participating in this event (they also stay open late for First Friday every month, and often offer great free classes and cool deals for that). So, they’ll be open tonight after you get out of work. I’m sure you have a few folks left to buy things for. Go visit them. I bet you a dollar holiday ornament you’ll find something you love.
The Merchant Company is located at 656 Congress Street in Portland. Here’s a link to their web page, which includes a list of their vendors. They also have a very active Facebook page. Their regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 am to 6 pm, Sunday Noon to 5 pm, but tonight they’ll be open until 10 pm for Merry Madness. Having trouble finding them? Here’s a map!