I spent a good portion of my working career in and around Houston so naturally I like going back to the area whenever I get a chance. I set up the day with a hike along the Buck creek dyke with friends, lunch at the Palisades coffee shop and then securing a column story from Evelynn and Regina at the Artisan Co-Op on 10th Ave.
This enterprise has been operating for almost two years now and has been able to provide Houston and area with some very unique homemade products. The group spent most of their time attending farmers markets and craft fairs selling their wares. Eventually they decided they needed a permanent home, and the co-operative was formed. There have been the usual growing pains, but the group is determined to showcase their wares. The co-operative concept also provides a different approach to running a successful business. Each artisan becomes a member which entitles them to either a full space or a half space in the store. Rent for the building is shared equally amongst the members depending on their space commitment. Artisans also staff the store, 4 hours per week for the full space arrangement and 2 hours for half.
Presently the co-operative has 10 full space artisans of which 5 also act as board members. That is another trademark of co-ops, one member one vote. Decisions are made locally. Consignments are welcome but consignees are not members until they commit to the program. A 25 per cent commission is charged on all items sold with those fees going towards the co-op’s future growth. Presently the store needs a freezer to stock items from food vendors. As store space is limited naturally there is a waiting list of potential vendors. Hopefully as the business grows there will be a chance to take out the wall and the store can expand into the adjoining space.
The products available are as varied as the artists. Soaps, jewellery, leatherworks and pottery join plants, candies, honey and wooden bowls and spoons. They also showcase wrought iron works along with macramé, paintings, homemade cards, knitted items and bird houses. They even have some furniture, some candles and various body lotions. I’m sure I missed some items and there are many others coming through the evolving door of inspiration. You definitely need to put this operation on your list of places to check out in Houston.
Another co-op principal is giving back to your community and that is exactly what the members would like to do if they can continue to be a successful enterprise. In talking with members Evelynn and Regina, they state it would be nice to co-produce something artistic to donate to Houston, we do not know what that would be but it is in our mindset.
I think you have a great place here and an equally great concept to make it work. All the best and hope for good Christmas sales was my last comment.