The DIME Store is the definition of cozy. Neutral paint on the walls is set off by long ribboons of handstitched streamers. Handmade products are grouped into browse-able nooks in a 1000 square-foot shop. A wooden dining table and bench divide two shopping areas — with enough room to sit down and smooth a hand over the tabletop.
The downtown handcraft store is the latest in a steady up-cropping of local businesses that channel the energy of Denton’s creative class into commerce. The DIME Store is the storefront for the Denton Independent Maker Exchange, an association of local hand crafters who were, once upon a time, under the umbrella of Etsy Denton. The association gave itself a new name and a broader purpose late last year.
“We went to the Creative mixer that (Denton City Councilman) Kevin Roden had last year,” said Aughtry, who runs a business making purses and totes and selling them on Etsy.com and a personal website — and now at the DIME Store. “That really got our wheels turning. We had long thought about a storefront. But a week later, we had our show and it was the best ever.”
DIME has several shows each year, bazaar-style sales at the Center for the Visual Arts. Christner, who has a redesign and refurbishing business (Home Again, Home Again), said the shows have become a destination for both hand crafters from Denton (and Dallas-Fort Worth) and shoppers.
“My daughter was getting married that weekend after the Creative mixer. And our show was the week after, but Rachel talked me into coming and I did. It basically made something we’d been talking about happen faster. I think it would have happened no matter what.”
The store took over what used to be an office leased by Nu-Con Steel. Materials from SCRAP Denton have been fashioned into the streamers that line the back wall, and Triple Threat Press chalked a drawing of the downtown Denton Courthouse and lettering on another.
“Every time I travel, I go into a handmade store and I always buy something,” Aughtry said. “And every time I’ve done that, I’ve thought, ‘We should have something like this in Denton.’ And it’s more than that. We can create jobs in Denton, so why aren’t we encouraging creating jobs in Denton? So that’s what we’re doing.”
It’s Aughtry and Christner who will act as jurors, making sure the handcrafters in the exchange are ready to have a spot in the store. Once the vendors are ready to sell through the store, they can rent space or barter services for booth space at an upcoming DIME sale.
“We have a good variety of products,” Christner said. “We have bath products, jewelry vendors, furniture and home accessories. We’re curating products by artists we know, and we’re looking for products that are well-made, that show the care that goes into it.”
The handcrafted items share a sort of nostalgic style, either in the products themselves or in the packaging. Handmade labels bear retro lettering, and most of the items skip shine in favor of texture. Denton handcrafters — and handcrafters all over the country — want shoppers to look and touch. The handcraft movement is a bundle of things. It’s a response to the past 30-plus years of rigorous exportation of American manufacturing. It’s a resilient American response to the recession, which put millions of Americans out of work. Its also an outgrowth of the renaissance of the craft movement, a phenomenon in which visual artists — fiber artists, furniture makers, potters, metalsmiths and jewelers — add value to their products with one-of-a-kind or limited edition designs and keeping their supply small enough to keep quality control.
Aughtry does this through her handbag line, Rachel Elise.
“I make a living with making handbags that you can buy at target for $15,” Aughtry said. “You can give me $40 for it, and it was made here, and it will last.”
Aughtry and Christner said a storefront helps the exchange keep “a consistency of presence.”
“We’d do these shows, and they’d do well and then we’d be exhausted,” Christner said. “The store will give us a place to make our products and to sell without the effort that goes into the big shows.”
“We are going to keep doing the shows, though,” Aughtry said.
The DIME Store will be a classroom space for emerging handcrafters. The exchange will offer creative business classes, crafting classes and lots of social events for people who make and sell their own products. At all of the Etsy Denton shows, the exchange passed out surveys to participants that queried handcrafters about how the exchange can support their businesses. One of the biggest needs the surveys identified were chances for the artists to meet (“Making art means you’re spending a lot of time by yourself,” Christner said). The exchange already has a busy calendar to keep crafters connected, and to keep shoppers interested in the handcrafting community.
Ultimately, Christner and Aughtry hope the DIME Store will stimulate the local economy so that there will be more room for local jobs using local materials selling locally made products — though neither of the store managers are as dogmatic as all that.
“Of course we want to be monetarily successful,” Aughtry said. “But its about making an impact on the community, on the handcrafter’s side and the consumer’s side. This is the best way to bring them together.”
The DIME Store
Who: Denton County handcrafters
What: a new store selling products made by local artists — from garments to accessories and bath products.
Where: 510 S. Locust St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Sideway Sale & Lemonade Stand
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, 2013.
Where: The DIME Store.
What’s in it for you: Local handmade items, inside the store and outside the store. Gourmet lemonade with “fancy” flavors. Show a picture of yourself — or your “check-in” at the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival and get a free lemonade.