Don’t be surprised if when you stop in at Made in the Mitten, one of downtown Royal Oak’s newest retail shops, you find yourself greeted with a handshake by an adorable 2-year-old named Lily Nalu, who immediately leads you to the coloring station for kids, where she instructs you to “Sit.” (Too cute!)
Lily’s mom, Colleen McClue of Berkley, is the owner of Made in the Mitten, “a Michigan artisan market,” which had its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony just last month. You might call it a dream come true for the 29-year-old single mom, who started a T-shirt business 10 years ago in her parents basement with just $75.
Located at the end of the shopping district in Royal Oak, at 706 S. Washington, Made in the Mitten showcases the handcrafted work of more than 30 local artists, including glass wear, photos, clothing, wood items, pet supplies and so much more. “It’s growing every week since we opened, and we’ve (just) signed an additional six more people. We’ve also started getting food products, like Faygo, Better Made, and some other well-known Michigan snacks and treats,” said McClue.
Vendors, ranging in age from 22-75, rent various size booths throughout the approximately 1,600-square-foot space, recently used for a dog bakery business. “Most of our artists rent a space depending on the size of their business. It can be as small as an end cap, up to a 6-foot wall, or the largest space — a full corner.” Monthly fees range from $118 up to $150.
“We like to say, it’s basically the cost of doing one craft show a month, except you have your items in for the entire month, and somebody else does the work for you. We do six-month or 12-month contracts, and we also have people who are strictly consignment.” At the time of this interview, all but one 6-foot wall had been rented.
For those who rent by the month, McClue said, “We only take 15 percent of their sales, and that covers complimentary gift wrapping, credit card fees and advertising.” The shop keeps 40 percent of any consignment sales. McClue, herself a crafter, designs logos for some of the shop’s apparel items.
She said, her biggest goal is to make sure everything sold in the store is affordably priced. “I’m not aiming to make this place a high-end gift shop, and I’ve not heard anyone say something is too expensive.”
Another goal is making it known that Made in the Mitten serves the community by creating awareness that “people (vendors) in the store are trying to get out of their 9-5 jobs, and that they don’t have enough to open their own business, but they want to make their business grow.”
Prior to opening Made in the Mitten, McClue, with the help of her dad and fiance, made all the necessary structural changes, including the installation of partitions. “I remodeled the entire (interior of the) building. It was one big open room,” she said. “I built a partition to separate the kitchen from the retail area, and then I built small partitions to separate everybody’s display, so I basically set up booths. The walls are a variety of teal, blue and white.
“My daughter is in the shop every day, and she takes a nap around 2 p.m. I brought a bed for her, and I, basically, made the kitchen area a second home for her with toys, a bed, TV and coloring station, and we try to do preschool.”
Made in the Mitten “offers free coffee and tea, as well as free gift-wrapping, and a reward system for those who frequent the store.” Hours of operation are noon-7 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and noon-8 p.m. Fri. and Sat. It’s closed Sun. and Mon.
“Right now, we’re closed on Sundays, but we’re looking to hire someone to work Sundays, and other part-time days. (But) a big part of our business is setting up at festivals and store booths, so I not only have to hire a part-time worker for the store, but also someone to set up at these festivals. They would be selling mostly what I make, personally,” McClue explained.
In the meantime, it’s little Lily who continues to lend mom a helping hand, welcoming customers as they enter the arts and crafts filled market. (What a great place to start holiday shopping!)
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Made in the Mitten (706 S. Washington, Downtown Royal Oak) at (248) 850-3268, or visit madeinthemittenstore.com. Email: email@example.com.