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LocalShops1 opens first brick-and-mortar site in Gulfport

GULFPORT — The display window beckoned, but on it were a couple of quirky requests: "Do not tap the glass. Do not feed the artist."

Inside, artist Elizabeth McCann, 31, was displaying her work. There were pieces of handcrafted jewelry, priced from $10 to $75, and paintings on raw canvas, all tucked into an 8- by 7-foot space decorated with pieces of antique furniture she had brought from home.

McCann is the first artist-in-residence at the new LocalShops1 brick-and-mortar site. The coalition of independently owned businesses and shoppers moved into the space at 2908 Beach Blvd. S, in the heart of Gulfport's arts district, in time for the city's Labor Day weekend GeckoFest.

The LocalShops1 location is offering two "pop-up" — temporary spaces — for local artists and businesses to display and sell their wares. With the exception of January, the space McCann occupies is booked through February, said Ester Venouziou, who founded LocalShops1 in 2008.

She said the new LocalShops1 Pop-Up! Shop will give people the opportunity to set up a temporary site "without all the start-up costs."

Early this week, McCann showed off the spoon jewelry, rings, pendants, bracelets and earrings she creates with her father, Bill Thompson, a St. Petersburg resident and former Madeira Beach firefighter. She also makes necklaces crocheted from hemp and yarn and displayed in her small space additional pendants crafted from domino pieces and broken china. Besides the pop-up location, her work is also being sold at Florida CraftArt in downtown St. Petersburg and online at her website EJMCreativeChaos.com, she said.

The artist, who grew up five minutes from the pop-up store, also pointed to paintings on raw canvas she's created with her husband, Matt, 33. She said they're "a labor of love" and run from $30 to $150.

"This is something I have been wanting a very long time," she said of the opportunity to set up shop, even if it is only temporary.

"Ester has been so supportive of small business people like me. This is something that couldn't have been on my radar."

Venouziou, 45, said the LocalShops1 site opened after a two-week renovation. Built-in shelves were added, along with slat boards for displays. The shop will give local artists and businesses a chance to market and build brand awareness for their products and introduce and test new products, she said. It also offers free display space for LocalShops1 members' business cards and brochures.

The location is at the center of Gulfport's weekly markets and two monthly art walks, as well as its festivals. Venouziou said pop-up reservations have already been made by several local artists and businesses, including White Pine Studio, This Life Photography, Earth Day St. Pete, FinFish and Creative Chaos.

Spaces are available by the day, during markets and art walks, and by the month, she said, adding that reservations can be made at TheBestLocalShop.com. Depending on the season and date, prices range from $75 a day to $400 a month.

Venouziou said LocalShops1 has about 350 members, with about 70 percent in St. Petersburg and most others in Gulfport, Seminole and Largo, along with a few in Tampa. Her dream is to open more pop-up stores.

"In my dream world, I would love to have one in downtown St. Pete, one in the Warehouse District and in Seminole Heights in Tampa," she said.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes

LocalShops1 opens first brick-and-mortar site in Gulfport 09/29/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:11pm]
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