How 'Made in Seattle' Gifts and Goods Create Community
Seattle is a #lovelocal town. From Pike Place Market—one of the oldest continuously running farmers markets and craft fairs in the country—to Seattle Made, a city-government-supported urban manufacturing alliance, we know our stuff when it comes to sourcing, producing, and buying made-in-Seattle gifts and goods. Although there are inevitably challenges to models of local manufacturing, Seattleites know that sticking to the PNW (Pacific Northwest for you non-locals) for our shopping needs can be good for the environment, the economy, and the social fabric of the community.
Many benefits of made-in-Seattle goods
Consumers and producers alike have many reasons for choosing local goods. Short-range sourcing and distribution means a reduced environmental impact. Local jobs mean greater opportunities and security for residents. But in addition to these tangible benefits, many local producers agree that the impact on the overall community runs far deeper.
Andrea Porter, Program Coordinator for Seattle Made, says one of the biggest benefits to local production is the sense of ownership and commitment to the community that it fosters. “It builds a whole network to your neighborhood and community,” says Porter. “This spreads further than the economy. It’s about how we want to treat people in our community.”
As Emily Crawford, Director of Communications and Marketing for Pike Place Market PDA, points out, consumers are increasingly returning to “the value of having authentically made and produced goods.” This inevitably means an increase in the number of producers, which in turn challenges everyone to raise the bar: “Our producers are challenged to rejuvenate what they are bringing to the table, keep innovating, and tune in to what people want year-to-year and season-to-season.”
To understand how local production fosters community, look no further than Seattle Made. In 2014, the city’s Office of Economic Development partnered with local business leaders and Seattle-based producers and manufacturers to create an urban manufacturing alliance. Modeled after SF Made in San Francisco, the alliance aims to support local manufacturers and producers through promotion and events, business development services, resources for production space, and—in conjunction with the city of Seattle and two local banks—even a matching capital fund.
In addition to Seattle Made, local producers look to the city’s network of craft fairs, such as Urban Craft Uprising, to provide both formal and informal opportunities to connect. According to Claudia Cerrato of City Kid Style, a Seattle-based company that upcycles old clothing and turns it into limited-edition children’s fashions, the climate for local goods producers has become increasingly supportive even during the handful of years she’s been in business. Says Cerrato, “There are so many of us going through the same thing.”
For connections that reach beyond local manufacturing, Seattle Townsquared connects neighboring small business owners of all types through a free online platform. In small, private communities, business owners talk about everything from small business loans and insurance, to city permits and working with local legislators.
Challenges of a crowded marketplace
A supportive local community is not without its challenges. Emily Crawford of Pike Place Market PDA says that a crowded marketplace is one of the biggest challenges faced by the Market’s vendors. “Even here at the Market, we have over 200 vendors. Our producers are challenged to have creative displays, elevate their artwork and their presence on social media, and develop their brands.”
Likewise, Andrea Porter of Seattle Made advises local producers to find multiple channels for selling their products. “A lot of people focus only on markets or direct retail. You have to diversify because it’s really difficult if you are just focusing on one aspect.”
Businesses looking to source and produce materials locally can sometimes encounter a lack of sufficient resources, even in Seattle’s vibrant scene. Although she uses mostly upcycled fabrics, Cerrato of City Kid Style says when she first started out, she explored the possibility of using a greater amount of new fabrics in order to offer more of her most popular items. However, she found that it was difficult to source good quality local fabrics. Scaling up has also proved challenging, because most local contract manufacturers will only place orders for a minimum of 200 items, and a small-scale clothing business may not be able to take the financial risk of carrying such a large inventory.
Spread the love: #ShopLocal
What better way to show your appreciation for fellow small business owners than by getting out there and spending some dough on local goods? In this #lovelocal town, there is no shortage of options to choose from.
Here are some of our favorite places to scout for local items.
Urban Craft Uprising
Various locations throughout the year
Urban Craft Uprising is Seattle’s largest indie craft show and invariably the go-to place for all things handmade. Started in 1995, each of its events is juried to ensure a balanced mix of quality, original items. In addition to its large, bi-annual shows that each draw over 16,000 people, Urban Craft Uprising also has a smaller presence at events throughout the year, including the Seattle Gift Show and Magnolia Summerfest. Recently, the group became the curator of the First Thursday Artwalk in Occidental Park, and hosted their winter show at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall December 3 and 4.
For indie crafters and artists looking to connect, Urban Craft Uprising also sponsors classes and events, sends out a monthly newsletter to vendors and hosts regular community building activities.
Pike Place Market
Western Avenue, between Virginia and Pike
No conversation about Seattle-made goods is complete without a mention of Pike Place Market. Established in 1907 as a place for farmers to sell their goods direct-to-market, it expanded in the 1960s to include a robust array of craftspeople and artists. It is currently one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers markets in the United States. Vendors hold regular spots in the covered market that spans three city blocks.
Potential new vendors are screened two or three times a year by a panel that includes some of the market’s longtime vendors. Out of the many applicants, around eight craftspeople are accepted each time. In addition to these newcomers, the market includes a good number of longstanding craftspeople—the most senior permit holder has been selling for over forty years.
Despite its popularity with tourists, the market has remained true to its roots as a platform for locally-produced goods. Crawford, Director of Communications and Marketing for Pike Place PDA, points out that all items sold must be made by hand, using local goods. Keeping with its “meet the producer” tradition, vendors must also be present in their booths several times a week, as opposed to having someone else sell their goods. Says Crawford, “We want people to have a more than fifty percent chance that they will be able to talk to the person who made the item they are buying.”
Fremont Sunday Market
Corner of 3410 Evanston Ave. North
Now in its 25th year, Fremont Sunday Market bills itself as “Seattle’s fun, year-round European-style street market for brunching and browsing, hand crafts, treasure hunting, vintage and one-of-a-kind, amazingly-cool-stuff.” Although the market’s roughly 200 vendors are not limited to local or handmade—antiques and estate-sale items abound—shoppers can still find an impressive array of artisan goods. On any given week, visitors can score everything from jewelry and candles, to handmade fashions, to a log reindeer.
For local-goods lovers who want to discover all our region has to offer (or share them with far-away friends), MakrBox is a new way to explore handmade goods right from the comfort of your couch. The new subscription box service delivers 2-3 home and kitchen items each month, all made in the Pacific Northwest.
According to their website, Makrbox considers itself a business that reaches beyond the handcrafted products it sells to their stories. “We are a way for you to support the local economy, inspire craft, and encourage uniqueness. Every product that you receive includes the story behind it. The story of its creator, their inspiration, and their process.”
top photo courtesy of Matt Mornick