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Castle Rock shop features dozens of Lower Columbia artisans
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Castle Rock shop features dozens of Lower Columbia artisans

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Derek Stewart of Winlock is a fulltime electrician, but in his spare time he creates handmade leather keychains, wallets and bags.

“I just moved into a new house. It has a basement I’m converting into a workshop,” he said. “I’m trying to take it into more of a part-time thing, versus a hobby.”

Stewart may need a workshop for his business D.k Custom Leather but he no longer needs a storefront.

Stewart is one of the roughly two dozen local artisans who sells one-of-a-kind goods at the Little Modern Market in Castle Rock.

When you shop at Little Modern Market on Huntington Avenue, you aren’t just supporting the two owners, but 22 other area small businesses, many of which don’t sell in brick-and-mortars.

It takes Stewart about four hours to create one leather piece. He draws designs on paper, cuts the outline on leather, punches holes and hand stitches the work.

Before Little Modern Market opened in December, buyers could only purchase Stewart’s work on Etsy, a website where artists sell products. He estimates sales have increased 30% since selling in the Castle Rock shop.

“It’s gotten me a lot more publicity in the local area,” said Stewart. “It’s helped a lot just with boosting sales and recognition.”

The store is located in just an ordinary small-town strip mall, but inside, owners Erica Schwartz and Emma Anderson handpick contemporary products, like candles, natural cleaners, vintage furniture and clothing, vinyl stickers and paintings. Products are produced by makers in local cities like Castle Rock, Toledo, Battle Ground and Longview.

Schwartz and Anderson collaborated on their dream to open an artisan shop when fate reunited the two Midwest natives in the same Winlock neighborhood.

Schwartz, from Minnesota, and Anderson, from South Dakota, knew each other growing up, then each moved to Washington, separately, married and started families down the street from one another. Both create a few items for the shop too; Schwartz crochets and Anderson sews.

In addition to selling in the store, vendors’ products are sold on the business’ website www.littlemodernm.com, which also includes links to makers’ social media pages or websites.

“We both like to support small businesses,” said Schwartz. “We wanted to give people a place to display their stuff online and in store so [buyers] could see it for themselves and try to get their products out a different way.”

Studies show spending money locally stays local.

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that about 67 cents of every dollar spent at small businesses stays in the local economy. Every dollar spent at small businesses also adds another 50 cents in local business activity when both employees and businesses spend their profits.

That cycle is the key to funding local economies, said Bill Marcum of the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s extremely important to shop locally,” he said. “The real key is that businesses are owned by someone locally, who’s employed here, who owns a home here, who’s kids go to school here, who help you buy products for your home.”

Little Modern Market is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursdays and Saturdays, and every other Friday. The reduced hours give the two new moms time to focus on their families. Anderson’s daughter is almost 2, and Schwartz’s daughters are 1 and 3.

“We wanted to find a way to have the store but also have time with our kids,” said Anderson.

The owners charge vendors a $20 monthly fee to sell in the shop, and then 30% commission on sales. Products can be as low as a piece of retro candy for 50 cents or as high as vintage dresser for $200.

A calendar of original nature illustrations is available from Woodland’s Modern Iris for $26. DIY scone kits can be purchased from The Bashful Baker of Kelso for $20.

The Little Modern Market is the only physical store where owner Courtney Hallstrom sells her Bashful Baker products after starting the business last October.

She sells kits to help people make scones with ease by providing dry and some wet ingredients alongside instructions. Each container includes a gift, like a sticker or card.

Hallstrom said the kits have proved to be the perfect quarantine present for those looking for activities while stuck inside during the pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, Anderson said other business owners encouraged them to open the store in 2020.

“When we talked to other small business owners, there were a lot that said ‘this is the best time to start a business because people are shopping small and keeping their money local,’” she said.

Last summer, a consulting company reported 56% of survey respondents said the airborne coronavirus caused them to shop for more locally sourced products. The study said 84% of participants planed to do so long term.

Hallstrom also sees the shop small trend as a constant.

“People are noticing that if you shop local and you shop small, you’re really helping the local people and the local economy strive and prosper,” she said.

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