By Noah Manskar
In the past six months, new shops, such as Simply Vague and Button Up, have expanded downtown Delaware’s offering of locally made products.
Kathleen Miller, proprietor of Button Up, opened her shop April 2 of this year. She said she bought the vacant space at 29 N. Sandusky Street at an opportune time, since all three of her children have graduated from or are in college.
Miller said her shop carries and sells myriad pieces by “local, regional and national artists (who have pieces) as small as a note card with photography to things as large as handmade ceramics and furniture.”
“We have just about every medium you can think of—we have things made from wood, bronze, iron, fabric, all types of metals,” she said. “People love our candles.”
Miller said she tries to choose a “wide variety” of products to appeal to as many customers as possible.
According to Miller, being near Ohio Wesleyan brings a strong customer base from outside of Delaware.
“Things that bring the parents in really affect my business, as well as the students coming down to look around and buy some things too,” she said. “…A lot of the professors come down to shop and seem to appreciate the fact that there’s a spot to get some unique things.”
Miller said her location also attracts people from outside Delaware in general.
“Delaware is a great spot to open a new small business,” she said. “The local community, as well as all the people who come into Delaware from surrounding towns and from out of state—there’s a good amount of foot traffic in downtown Delaware.”
Miller said despite Button Up’s success, she wants to keep the shop small.
“While I would like to have another employee who would help out every now and then, it’s important to me to be the one that’s here working with the customers,” she said. “…Expanding would just mean carrying new and a variety of different art, but not necessarily getting bigger or having other satellites or anything like that.”
Andrea Archibald, co-owner of Simply Vague—which exclusively carries products made in Ohio—said Delaware made starting a business easier for her and Nate, her husband and business partner.
“They were really supportive of our concept and they were helpful with sign permitting and just every business startup thing that there is, so we really liked that about Delaware,” she said.
Andrea said she and Nate opened the Delaware Simply Vague location in July of this year. She said soon after opening, they realized they needed a larger space to support where they wanted to go with the business. They opened a location at Dublin’s Tuttle Mall in September.
Andrea said the expansion was unexpected.
“There’s so much talent that comes at us, and we didn’t realize that there’s going to be so many vendors with interest in being in the store, and we were turning people down, so we didn’t want to do that anymore,” she said.
Nate said getting Simply Vague started was initially difficult, but it grew quickly.
“Selling them on the idea and making sure that it was going to be successful for both us and them was a challenge, but after we got started, 25 grew into 75, and now 75’s grown into 120 different vendors,” he said.
Andrea said she and Nate originally planned to start Simply Vague in Marysville, but regulations on signage and advertising, as well as the general atmosphere, was less conducive to starting a business than Delaware’s.
“The actual business owners work together to try and better Delaware, not just their own business, where Marysville, the business owners aren’t friends,” she said. “It’s not as easy an environment to try and have a business.”
Nate said the store’s customer base in Delaware is different from the Dublin location.
“They’re very supportive, they love the store, but you’re selling to mainly Delaware,” he said.
Andrea said Simply Vague has started carrying products with a “lower price point” to cater to the students in Delaware. She also said the exclusively local selection appeals to them.
“[E]verything here’s one of a kind, and that’s kind of important for college students,” she said. “It’s all about being different and having something that not everybody else has. There’s no duplicates with some of our stuff. They’re all made with love, and you’re not going to see a thousand people with it because it’s not mass-produced.”
Junior Claire Hackett said she thinks locally produced products “tend to be better quality.”
“Local products are more unique and therefore more interesting to me, and I think it’s really interesting that you could potentially meet local artists,” she said.
Miller said she thinks local products are becoming what shoppers are looking for.
“I think people are ready to shop,” she said. “They’re tired of malls; they like buying from either local or at least people who’ve made things somewhere in the United States. It’s a good time for that.”
“They tend to be better quality. Local products are more unique and therefore more interesting to me. And I think it’s really interesting that you could potentially meet local artists.”