What is Amelia’s Craft Market & Boutique all about?
It’s an opportunity for my husband and I to sell products that we create through woodworking and laser in my hometown, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, while also providing an outlet for other creators to sell their products too. We know how difficult the whole craft show business can be.
Thirty to thirty-five other local creators and small Midwest businesses are represented in our store. We carry a wide variety of clothing, home décor, gifts, personal care items such as soaps, essential oil chap sticks, bug sprays and home cleaning products. We have merchandise for all ages and both genders. It’s not just a ladies store; it’s for everybody. We are always looking for other products to meet the interests of our UP audience!
What prompted you to open your shop?
In August 2021, my mom, Barbie Ward-Thomas, was looking for other opportunities and I asked if she’d be willing to manage and run a store with my husband Nick and I. We live in Wisconsin so it wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t willing to run it for us day-to-day. I thought my mom and husband would say I was crazy, but both said, “Let’s do it!” The idea came to life on August 26 and we quickly began preparing. We opened on Front Street in downtown Marquette on October 9. The support of my mom for my dream had a huge impact on making it happen.
The UP is a huge part of my and my husband’s heart. I was born and raised here. Nick was raised in Lower Michigan and moved to the UP to go to college. We both went to Northern Michigan University. We moved to northern Wisconsin for job opportunities for ourselves and our children, but our hearts are still in Marquette and the UP. That’s why we wanted our shop in Marquette.
What skills and experiences have helped you to open and run it?
My parents ran the Red Horse Ranch in Gwinn during my childhood. Mom has been in food service or retail ever since. My entire post-college life has included lots of customer service–first in the restaurant business and then in education. My husband went into construction and woodworking after twelve years in law enforcement. I just left my education career this spring so I could navigate my businesses. I was Dean of Students at an elementary school and an elementary school teacher prior to that.
How did you and your husband become interested in making wood and laser products?
Nick grew up in construction and has always had a passion for woodworking. We started remodeling our home and then branched out. He stumbled upon videos about CNC machines and we took the leap and purchased one, and that led us to our lasers.
What do you find most challenging about running Amelia’s?
It’s technically business number three, and I’m a mom of four boys. Navigating family and multiple businesses can be challenging. I’m able to be successful due to the support of my mom and my family. Also, the weather in the UP makes a huge impact on small business, so you just never know what your business activity will look like from month to month.
What do you enjoy most about running the business?
My favorite part is that I can share our hard work and our passion for what we do and also support other small businesses.
Sharing your work through craft shows and vendor events, you have to carry all your products there; you have to set them up and take them down. Wood products are very difficult because they’re very heavy and can also get damaged being moving around. You have to fit multiple days on end into your schedule. We have set up our business so that our vendors don’t have to work in the store. They can set up their merchandise and then it stays. Many also share their products at craft shows or other places. My husband and I have been able to downsize the amount of events we do.
What do customers enjoy most about your shop?
Customers really enjoy our product choices. We try to be very selective to reach the Marquette area. They also comment on the openness and airiness of the store, and the customer service experience. My mom has a lifetime of experience through food service and customer service. Our customers really appreciate her welcoming, friendly help.
What are your future plans for Amelia’s?
We will be having more classes on site, in our room at the back. Two of our other creators have already taught classes – one taught an acrylic painting class and another taught some jewelry making. Craft opportunities are there. We’re also working very hard to have youth classes so kids can experience making crafts and other projects. We were recently approved to start selling off-premise beer and wine, so in the near future, customers will be able to purchase beers and wines from Michigan and the Midwest.
What else would you like our readers to know?
This has been a crazy dream and a lot of fun! We decided “Let’s just have fun with this!” And we’re really glad we can help other creators and the people who love their work.
Excerpted from the Fall 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.