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Spreading Crafty Across the Northwest
Torie Nguyen-Khac and Cathy Zwicker first met as members of Portland Super Crafty, a women's craft collective. They sold their handmade goods together at many local craft events and would often talk about combining their experience to organize the perfect Portland fair – regularly scheduled, indoors and juried to include the best local artists and designers in town.
The duo started Crafty Wonderland in April 2006, as a monthly art and craft sale at Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Ore. The event quickly gained popularity with both shoppers and vendors, receiving both local and national media attention. In fall 2009, Torie and Cathy decided to transition the monthly shows to semi-annual large-scale events at the Oregon Convention Center. This change allowed them to grow the show, including many more vendors and, in turn, many more shoppers. The large-scale craft market now includes more than 250 local and national artists and brings upwards of 20,000 shoppers through the doors.
“Torie and I had always dreamed of having a retail store, but it was a big leap to take,” said Cathy. “We were really lucky that the City of Portland asked us to do a pop-up shop.” In November 2010, Cathy and Torie were approached by the City of Portland to participate in their holiday pop-up shop program. The city works with downtown landlords to fill vacant storefronts over the holidays. Crafty Wonderland’s six week pop-up shop was a complete success, breaking all records of previous participants in the program. The success allowed Cathy and Torie to negotiate their stay beyond the holiday season. In February 2012, they signed a three year lease on their current location, one door down from the original shop.
When they first began the retail shop in 2010, both Cathy and Torie had other part-time jobs that helped them support themselves and their families. Continuing the retail store though, required both of their attention full time. It also required developing some new business skills. Cathy and Torie enrolled in the Small Business Development Center’s Small Business Management Retail Course at Portland Community College. “The class was really great,” said Cathy. “I think the best part for us though was having the advisor. She helped us set a goal and accomplish it. Allowing us to get to things we had been wanting to do, but hadn’t had a chance to.”
“It’s really great to be able to offer people a couple of different avenues to sell their work,” said Torie. “Some people are a great fit for the shop, and being at the fair gives them even more exposure.” With a rotating line up of talented vendors, Crafty Wonderland fairs are the place to go to find the best handmade goods in the Northwest, as well as affordable work from talented visual artists. It’s an event meant to bring together crafty people with those who appreciate handmade items, to support artists, and to spread the joy of craft throughout the community. The show even offers a kids’ area where budding young artists can set up and sell their work. Each Crafty Wonderland features a free Do-It-Yourself area where local artists share their talent and teach visitors how to make a craft of their own to take home. Past DIY table projects have included snow globes, buttons, shadow puppets, and seed art portraits.
“It’s really cool to be able to say everything in our store was handmade in Portland,” said Cathy. The retail shop started out selling goods from about 100 local artists and employing three part-time staff. Crafty Wonderland now carries handmade goods from more than 180 local artists and employs one full-time and four part-time staff.
For more information about Small Business Development Center programs or to find one near you, please visit www.sba.gov/OR.