Artisan Products Sold Here

Artisan Products Sold Here

By Meline Beach

One thing the pandemic has taught us is the importance of buying local and supporting local businesses. Buying local is not only a great way to be environmentally friendly, but it also helps create jobs, support and strengthen the community and stimulate the regional economy. 

The pandemic has also encouraged many people to seek or hone their craft and try their hand at creating something artistic of value – be it baking, jewelry, jams and preserves, photography, paintings, sewing, woodworking, soaps, and candles. Artisans, as craftspeople, find beauty in their work – from process to finished product. While artisans often work in small batch volumes, one of their biggest challenges is seeking and selling to an audience base to generate a revenue stream. While not all that common, some C&G retailers and artisans are finding their perfect match in working together.

A retailer’s perspective

Andy and Tiffany Southall from Callander, Ontario own and operate the South Shore Centre General Store and LCBO Convenience Outlet. Since taking ownership in 2019, the Southalls have remained active in sourcing new products that would appeal to their customer base. In addition to traditional convenience store items, they sell their custom-made t-shirts and sweatshirts that feature unique sayings, as well as artwork, woodwork, photography, and candles from local artisans.

“It’s a win-win situation,” says Andy. “Local artisans have an outlet to feature their product and the retailer benefits in selling unique items that appeal to a diverse customer base while being supportive of independent artists.” 

Approximately 10 per cent of the South Shore Centre General Store’s floor space is dedicated to artisan items, displayed in different cabinets, hutches, and shelving units. Andy credits his wife, Tiffany, who’s often influenced by decorating shows featuring on HGTV, for “having an eye and a knack for seeing stuff that can sell.” Artisan items sold at their store range at prices from $6 to $90 and feature candles, framed photos on canvas, fishing lures, and cutting boards – to name a few. 

According to Andy, there are two options in how they choose to work with artisans. The first of which is keeping a percentage of the sale price, often 10 per cent, for the store. This arrangement is typically reserved for artisans they haven’t worked with as a means of testing out their product, for an average of six to nine months. “Some things work and some don’t,” says Andy. “At some point after a few months, we contact the artisan, and together, we decide on what to do next. Sometimes product rotation, including moving items to the front of the store, helps drive sales.” 

The second arrangement involves the retailer purchasing the artisan’s items at wholesale cost, thereby keeping all the proceeds. “This arrangement is dedicated to artists of trusted products that are known to sell well,” says Andy. “We buy Mud Dog Creek Farm products at wholesale pricing. These locally-made artisan products have a good following and their candles are popular at our store.”

In terms of advertising, Andy states that local artists typically market their products and encourage people to come to the store to buy them.

“Selling locally-made items is a great message and helps drive sales,” says Andy, who encourages all retailers to consider the opportunity to support local artisans.

Kathy Astle, owner and operator of Sunny Corner General Store in Sunny Corner, New Brunswick, is happy to sell artisan items as a way of supporting the local community. “Many artisans have come to our store and asked if we would be interested in selling their product,” says Kathy, whose store is located in a small-knit community a few kilometres from Miramichi. “We used to have a home décor section, but with our demographics, we changed to a fishing and hunting line that serves us well. We sell local fishing flies and make a small percentage on the sale of those items.”

Kathy adds, “We also sell kindling from local wood and lip balm and cream made of locally-sourced honey.”

An artisan’s experience

Founded in 2014, John and Cari Davis affectionately named their homestead Mud Dog Creek after their rescue dogs, the Mud Dogs. Their mixed-use farm grows a variety of produce, fruits, and herbs using organic practices and principles. They sell a variety of eggs, including duck, chicken, goose, and quail, as well as non-consumable handcrafted products, featuring eco-friendly, renewable, sustainable, biodegradable premium 100 per cent natural soy wax candles, wax melts, and room and linen sprays – of which they sell at South Shore Centre General Store, the only convenience store to carry their products. 

“The previous owners of South Shore General Store approached us after seeing our products at an event and we’ve been selling our candles there since 2015,” says Cari, who believes that being customers of the store helped with creating a sense of familiarity. “We’re thrilled that the new owners opted to move forward with continuing to carry our product.” 

Cari credits the South Shore Centre General Store’s location as an advantage. “The store itself is quite busy due to its location and distance from other country stores,” says Cari. “Traffic is drawn in for the store’s convenience items, including lottery, LCBO, and the gift shop.” 

Mud Dog Creek products, which range in price from $6 to $35, are sold on a wholesale basis to South Shore Centre General Store, where both parties make a fair profit.

Like many artisans, Cari leverages as many opportunities as possible to sell her products, including the North Bay Farmers’ Market, where Mud Dog Creek is a full-time, year-round vendor. “We also sell at seasonal artisan craft shows and have a few retail wholesale businesses we work with,” says Cari. “We utilize social media platforms and since the pandemic, we modified our website and started selling more online.” 

In terms of advice to other artisans, Cari strongly emphasizes that quality communication is essential for all contacts regardless of size. It adds value to conversations about the pricing structure so the wholesaler understands their profits versus those of the maker. Cari also advises that both parties discuss a plan for advertising and what each will do for the store.

“I think it’s important that businesses like this be knowledgeable of the ‘shop local’ movement,” says Cari, who recommends the South Shore Centre General Store to others. “It adds value to find a balance between offshore items and locally produced items. The relationship between the two can be complementary.”

Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at

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