When Craft Arts Market opened on St. James Street in downtown St. Catharines, Co-Owner Nancy Kapodistrias was ecstatic. “We opened at an odd time. It was surprisingly busy as January is usually slow for retail,” says Kapodistrias. “But there was a lot of excitement about something new opening in downtown St. Catharines.”

Inspired by the local markets and hand-made stores in Toronto, Kapodistrias and her business partner, Sarah Jarvis, wanted a year round place in the Niagara Region that supported local and hand-made products. “We wanted an outlet for them in the city to sell their goods,” says Kapodistrias.

Kapodistrias, who is active in the theatre, stitching costumes for the Shaw Festival, and Jarvis, who has a background in retail and a business called Embellish where she makes and sells head bands and hair pieces, were excited to use their artful sides to create a unique business.

From belts, adorable baby items, tea towels, and purses, the store is filled with high quality, original pieces that are guaranteed to impress any shopper. “We have a variety of home and gift items, jewelry, natural skin care products, and accessories for yourself and your home,” says Kapodistrias. “We also have hand-made greeting cards.”

Jarvis has also incorporated her skills working in the coffee industry and brought her talents and experience into the store. “We started the coffee bar last summer and along with our latte of the month we serve teas, lattes, coffees and espresso in a tea form,” says Kapodistrias. The pair is committed to serving high quality products right down to the coffee beans. “We serve Pilot Coffee Roasters from Toronto known for their award winning beans. We use local milk and honey,” says Kapodistrias.

Kapodistrias and Jarvis celebrated their one year anniversary with a sense of pride. “It has been a surprisingly great year. We didn’t know what to expect. We started off strong in January and it has only gotten better form there,” says Kapodistrias. “We have had a lot of support from the community, we are growing strong.”

Their environmentally friendly products bring in a wide variety of customers. “We have a lot of regular customers, but we often have people that come in and say, ‘Wow, when did you open?’” explains Kapodistrias. “We serve mostly people from the area who appreciate handmade items and want to support the local people, and are excited about the revival of downtown,” adds Kapodistrias.

Jolene Antle, founder and owner of Garden City Essentials, sells all natural, small batch soaps, skin care products, perfumes, essential oils and candles. Antle met Kapodistrias while working together at the Shaw Festival. “I met Sarah at the Artisan Collective Pop Up Shop I had organized with friends in the downtown, prior to Craft opening. They invited me to apply to become a vendor at Craft, which I did, and I have had my products there since the beginning,” explains Antle.

Antle enjoys attending traditional markets and events where she can have an opportunity to interact with her customers. “It’s a great way to introduce people to my products and educate them about what I’m doing. Spending a whole day out at the market is fun and I love engaging with my customers, but it’s also time that I could spend making and developing products and growing my business. As a small business, not having enough time is always an issue,” explains Antle.

With this in mind, Antle is appreciative to have her products featured at Craft Arts Market. “When I’m out at traditional markets and other events, it’s so great to be able to tell people they can buy my products at Craft. It’s such a great shop and I’m really proud to be part of it!” adds Antle.

Since becoming affiliated with Craft Arts Market, Antle has observed a steady increase in her sales. “Having my products at Craft has opened my business up to customers I might not have been able to reach otherwise,” says Antle. “It’s great to have a bricks and mortar store downtown where people can go buy my products any day of the week. The ladies have really great style and taste so everything is nicely curated. There’s a great community vibe in the shop. It’s an awesome place to spend some time and to be able to get a fantastic latte while you do, is a huge bonus,” concludes Antle.

Since opening more than one year ago, Kapodistrias has had a feeling of nostalgia. “We accomplished something really amazing and unique to this area,” says Kapodistrias.  “We want to promote the importance of community and shopping local. We like to support the small guys.” For more information on visit craftartsmarket.ca

Written By: Jill Tham