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  • marcusdehart

The Carefree Quail Valentine's Sale

Updated: Feb 19

About three weeks ago, Lois and I decided to check out the Finn River Cider Taproom at the Craft District Market in Tumwater. We'd had our eye on this building for the past two years when construction began. What caught our attention was the barn-like structure.

Lois has had a vision of owning a big red barn since we were married in 1991. The vision has grown over the years as we dreamed about a tiny house with a big red barn where we could do pottery and host artists, musicians, and theater while nurturing community. Over the last few years, we have expanded our dream and may eventually launch a non-profit to bring it about. We wondered if the Craft District Market might play some part in this vision.

The market finally opened in October 2023. Finn River is a cidery located in Chimacum, Washington, which we pass on our way to Port Townsend when we go to our mentor’s studio (Darby of Laughin’ Gnome Pottery fame).

We ordered pizza from the Bastard Pie food truck out front and found a table in the main corridor of the market where we tucked into our food and sampled a flight of ciders. After which, we explored the interior.

Only a handful of stores were open including ice cream, seafood, a Thai restaurant, and an art studio. A brewery was under construction as were a wine/beer/distillery tasting room and a Mexican restaurant search tequila and mezcal. The art studio caught our attention. Apparently, “craft” referred to more than alcohol. The cool thing was that these were all crafted in the Pacific Northwest.

Recalling the advice of my good friend Rick, I reached out on their website and told them our story as potters trying to launch a small store. I received a response the next day. John emailed me saying that while they don’t have any small stores, they would love to see some pop-up stores in the main corridor. He had checked out our website and told us that our products would be a good fit in the market.

We met with John a few days later to look at some potential spaces within the market. We were surprised to find out that he was one of the owners. He, his brother, and their father had been developing the property and had more buildings planned for the location. He also shared his vision for the market. He wanted to build a destination for Tumwater, not just a strip mall. He explained that when Interstate five was built, it cut Tumwater in half. The city has struggled to maintain a downtown vibe ever since. It currently hosts a variety of government buildings, box stores, and the historic, but defunct, Olympia Brewery. The Craft District would become that place of community that the city craved.

We were hooked. John mentioned that a few stores were planning a soft launch on Valentine’s Day, so we decided to throw our hat into the ring with a pop-up store for The Carefree Quail.

We visited Darby two days prior to the sale and strategized. He seemed a little hesitant about the idea at first. But as we described the venue—the vendors, the location (up the hill from the Valley Athletic Club and the Tumwater Valley Golf Course), practically next door to the old brewery, and less than three miles from the Washington State Capital building—Darby’s enthusiasm grew. He was convinced that we could make this work, which was important, since I’m leaving my job in three days. He was eager to help us make it happen.

Valentine’s Day came and we arrived at the market early to set up. We received warm welcomes from the building manager and other vendors. We set up next to the Test Patch Studio, which was opening the same day. We found that they, like us, are a family business featuring artisanal crafts made by family members. The manager of the Finn River Taproom dropped by excited about our products.

Friends, neighbors, and social media followers showed up to support us. Passersby (many on their way to ice cream) stopped to check out our products. Some were eager to have pottery lessons, which is Lois’ passion. Many times we heard the question, “Are you here all the time?” That was music to our ears. Darby often coached us to not push for sales. Let the product sell itself, and let people know we’ll be here next week or the week after. I never want to pressure people into buying my products. That’s one of the downsides to all the craft and holiday bazaars we’ve been to. We’re there for a day and then, poof! We’re gone. That’s the primary reason we wanted to find a permanent location.

Sales were modest for a first day and the middle of the week. But the excitement and enthusiasm of customers captured our hearts. By the end of the day, we were convinced that we need to return. So in March (date TBD), we plan to open our weekly pop-up store on Fridays and Saturdays. The rest of the week we will be working in our studio to make sure we have enough products to sell from week to week. With time and success, we hope to open an onsite studio and point of sales.

Stay tuned for more as we write our next chapter!

Check out the Craft District Market.

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