A friendship built on a shared passion for the arts and supporting talented makers is behind the opening of a new artisan boutique and creative workshop in Newmarket.
Erin Gooderham and Meghan Larkin are the co-owners of Maker’s Mark, which offers a carefully curated array of high-quality, one-of-a-kind handcrafted products, from lifestyle and home decor items to artwork and apparel.
“Supporting hand-makers has been such a passion of mine my whole life, and we’re both so passionate about art,” Larkin said.
“That’s what we connected on, really” Gooderham chimed in.
The two Newmarket residents, both mothers of young daughters, are makers themselves. They met on the artisan market circuit that has come to a grinding halt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their dream to open a retail location also hit a bump as public health restrictions closed down everything but stores offering essential goods.
“We were prepared to sign a lease (last) March, and just like everybody else, and so many other artists, we had to pivot,” Larkin said.
Gooderham is a drawer and painter, who expanded to digital art creations about two years ago, taking her original artwork and applying it to different materials, including prints, cards and mugs.
Larkin handcrafts keepsake stuffed animals, using both new and sentimental materials, under her Sew Shenanigans brand. She's also a professional photographer with a background in high-end retail management.
Their pandemic pivot was the launch last summer of an online business, the Makers Box, which offered packaged boxes combining local makers’ handiwork that could be themed for special occasions.
“When we were finally able to revisit the reality of opening a retail location, we felt it’s a bad time, but when is there a better time to support local,” Larkin said. “Because we’ve had to pivot all year on this idea we’re so passionate about, we have so many different plans in place no matter what happens and we’re just willing to do anything to make it happen.”
The store, at 16655 Yonge St. in the Nature's Emporium plaza, currently features the work of about 75 makers, from across York Region, as well as Simcoe County, Oshawa, North Bay, and a fashion designer from Nova Scotia, with more coming in January.
“We look for something unique, with a story behind it,” Larkin said of the “incredibly talented” makers selected.
“It’s a real pleasure, and kind of an honour, to connect with so many talented and like-minded people and be able to help them fulfill their dreams,” said Gooderham. “Our mantra has always been community over competition. Everybody raises up together, that’s what we continually try to do.”
When pressed, Gooderham will select the Cocoa 40 products as her current favourites.
“I love all of them, but Cocoa 40 has the most amazing chocolate,” she said. “It’s delicious and very beautiful, and supports charity.”
Larkin chooses the word association game SideLinks made by Aurora maker Mark Kolb at Newmarket’s NewMakeIt.
Their personal experiences as makers and retail savvy have created “the perfect space” for both their customers and artisan members, they say.
“We’re constantly looking at both sides, we’re looking at the customer, who's going to come in and buy, and being makers ourselves, we have the maker’s perspective in mind,” said Gooderham.
“Part of the reason for instigating this was not only this love for handmade and wanting to support other local artists, but also knowing there had to be a better way,” she added.
Travelling the artisan market circuit was “draining, tiring, you’re loading everything up, bringing it in, you’re setting it up, and then you’re tearing it all down.”
“Getting into retail is the gold standard, but it’s not affordable for the average person, so we have a space that the average person can be part of without the risk of the overhead,” Gooderham said.
The artisans pay a monthly membership fee, which is offered at multiple levels, based on the space required, and they retain the profits of what they sell.
“You can have a teeny tiny space,” Gooderham said, pointing to a small shelf with peg dolls.
They also offer their members free storage and restocking, and provide all the shelving.
Larkin and Gooderham manage the categories of the products, some of which currently have a wait list.
Physical distancing can be easily accommodated in the spacious boutique, and the option of private shopping is also available by booking an appointment online.
Online shopping is available with the launch of the website this week, with flat-rate shipping, free local delivery and curbside pickup.
As well as retail space, workshops, with physically distanced work areas, will soon be offered.
Maker's Mark Artisan Boutique + Creative Workshop Space is at 16655 Yonge St., units 19 and 20, at Mulock Drive.