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Santa Rosa artisan marketplace expands


When Kelley Rajala set out to create a one-stop shop for locally made crafts three years ago, she did so with relatively small beginnings — 35 artists and a 400-square-foot space in downtown Santa Rosa.

Now, Made Local Marketplace has tripled in size and works with more than 350 vendors. On Monday, it held a reception to celebrate its expansion and kick off what Rajala hopes will be a particularly successful holiday shopping season.

Interest in buying locally is growing, especially for the holidays, said Terry Garrett, a managing member of the Go Local Cooperative, which runs a county-wide marketing campaign to encourage people to support locally owned businesses.

To illustrate this trend, Garrett pointed to Oliver's Market, which focuses on selling regional goods. Go Local tracked sales at Oliver's over the last three years and found that sales of locally made goods increased at twice the rate of products from outside the area, he said.

"Interest is really high in 'go local' right now and we're going to test it this holiday season," he said.

Rajala helped found the cooperative about five years ago but left to start the Made Local Marketplace as well as a shared work space for fledgling companies. The endeavor is a "way to make purchasing local very tangible," she said.

Made Local Maketplace runs as a flexible purpose corporation, a new type of business that operates both to make profit and create a social benefit, in this case, encouraging more local business. Rajala said she started Made Local Marketplace with her own money and that the goal is for the marketplace to sustain itself.

The business, at 531 Fifth St., is just a block away from what could be considered serious competition — Santa Rosa Plaza mall. But Rajala doesn't view it that way.

"I don't really see the mall as competition," she said. "We're a place where people shop based on values."

Rachel Ede, a Petaluma resident who works in Santa Rosa, was browsing in the children's section around lunch time Monday.

"I've been a longtime fan," she said, "and when I heard about the new expansion I came to check it out." She said she was drawn by the appeal of supporting local producers. She also likes the options. "There's always something new," she said. "You can always find a gift because there's so much variety."

Ede has bought jewelry, ceramics and food from the store. Also for sale are hand-woven scarves, laundry soap, photographs, coffee and books. They're all made by people living in the North Bay region, which Rajala and co-owner Pamela Dale define as Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Solano, Napa and Marin counties.

Made Local Marketplace operates mostly on a consignment basis, with vendors getting half of the proceeds from sales.

Vicki Duggan has been selling her wire-wrapped jewelry there for about two years.

"I'd been selling at local street fairs, but nothing consistent like this," said the retired teacher, who was putting out more jewelry Monday afternoon. She took up the craft as a hobby after she retired five years ago. Duggan says her annual earnings from Made Local pay for her supplies as well as her business license and insurance. But, she says, she doesn't rely on the proceeds for income.

"And it's a good thing I don't," she laughed.

Duggan estimates that she makes $300 or less per year from the marketplace. But the marketplace isn't designed to make vendors lots of money, Rajala said. The goal is to be a launching pad where entrepreneurs can see what sells and experiment with pricing. She pointed to one artist who makes designs for cards and T-shirts. Her art has become popular enough that she's now trying to sell it in winery tasting rooms, Rajala said.

The marketplace fills a need in Sonoma County by bringing artists from all over the region together under one roof, said Tammi Matthias, director of operations and membership for the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

"We tend to have different little areas around here where people can sell their products," Matthias said. "Sebastopol has a great outlet, Petaluma has a great outlet — but they're small. It's great to bring them into one place."

You can reach Staff Writer Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com.