Meet Amanda Tholen Long, the co-owner of mash handmade, a shop in Westport that brings functional art from 30+ local, regional, and national artists under one roof.
Four out of five people who walk into my shoppe want to know if everything we have here is made locally. Itʼs an interesting question, and often they seem taken aback by my answer.
You see, we work with about 30 independent artists and designers, with one third of them being from the Kansas City area, the rest are scattered about the country.
So I tell them yes, everything is local to the United States and about a third of our artists are in Kansas City.
I tell them this for three reasons.
The first, is because itʼs true. The second is because I think that the momentum behind the idea of shopping locally was so fast, so hip, such the thing to do, that folks haven’t taken the time to decide what “local” means to them. (We are, after all, a shoppe that carries handmade goods, so this begs the question: is this object less attractive to me because it was made by a designer in Portland and not in Blue Springs?)
And the third? My business partner and I love to travel and bring new work from different regions as a way to spread culture and art to Kansas City. Itʼs what keeps our business thriving and our hearts racing.
Here at mash handmade, buying local is more of an ongoing commitment to the community than a red circle on a map.
For example, letʼs say someone spends $100 at our shoppe. We will use a portion of that to pay our artists, a portion for the light bill, and at the end of the day, we’re hungry. What do we do?
We go to our favorite independent restaurant down the street.
Because it’s delicious, yes, but also because we’ve gotten to know the owners and staff, their stories, knowing that they shop at our place, that they feed their kids from the same farmers markets we go to, that they frequent the same music venues in the area, as well as like-minded eateries, spreading the original dollars that you spent at mash handmade further into the community.
When we travel, we seek out independent businesses.
Because we support creativity and entrepreneurship and having the balls to make a go of it. Because we
know the owners or staff will have great suggestions of other places we should check out. Because thatʼs how we find out about the wackiest spot in town that isnʼt online or in a guidebook, or the best place to buy an old school straight razor. Or, (the best!), how you get sent 3 towns over to a place you didnʼt know existed because they might just make the best pizza youʼve ever had in your life.
I think the idea here is more about being aware of independent businesses, whether theyʼre in your same zip code or not, than it is “buying local”.
Let go of the language and the rules and figure out what local means to you, and start visiting the little guys! We may not have everything you need under one roof, but you may be delightfully surprised by the personal service, customizations, and community that wait inside these doors.