Pin It
peoplesmarket_120Many local artisans sell their products at seasonal markets, then have to store them until the next season.  That's what Jay and Carol Engels were doing with products made from fiber from the alpacas and other animals on their farm.  On top of that, Engels Accounting was beginning to outgrow the home office in the farm house.  Their solution is to open a new marketplace in Lansing Plaza on East Shore Drive where they will not only move the accounting business and sell alpaca products year 'round, but provide a place for other local artists to sell the jewelry, fiber art and craft, and other things they make twelve months a year.

"People want hand made goods," Carol says.  "And they want the quality of hand made.  We decided we wanted to offer a place where people who just needed a ten dollar birthday gift could come to pick something up, because I felt we don't have that in Lansing.  But then some of the artisans will have things in the $100 range.  We have pottery, jewelry, a wood crafter, a quilt artist, fiber, knitting, quilting, purse making, slates, quite a bit.  And a clown."

peoplesmarket_jaycarolJay and Carol Engels

The main part of the store is for local artisan's goods.  It holds a hand crafted counter and many nooks and crannies that provide separate display spaces.  A 'kids corner' has all non-breakable items, and other rooms are for seasonal items, antiques, local sports memorabilia, fibers, alpaca items, and so on.  A fiber room has alpaca yarns, raw fiber, and sample patterns, and provides a space where you can come to knit.  The accounting office has its own entrance at the back of the building.  It takes up about a third of the rear space, leaving a large area that will be used for classes on everything from knitting, spinning, and felting to jewelry making and even clowning.

Artisans pay a small annual fee to help pay for advertising, but there is no other up-front cost for selling wares in the market.  The Engels will get a percentage of sales, which they cut down a bit if an artisan is willing to help out in the store.  They have hired their son Tyler to work for them and say their daughter Ashley will likely work there as well.

peoplesmarket_roomsA 'children's corner' (left) features all non-breakable items, while other rooms show special products

"What made us think about this venue is that we have an awesome distributor for socks, but we couldn't carry them at the Ithaca Farmer's Market because they weren't made within 30 miles," Carol says.  "There were items in our gift shop that we haven't been able to offer to the public yet.  We weren't getting a big following at the farm because it's too away.  We thought this would be great because we knew the Lansing area has a lot of talent, between pottery and jewelry makers, and felters and fiber people.  We thought with Jay's accounting business in the back and this store here we could bring everybody together."

Carol, a Lansing kindergarten teacher, and Jay started alpaca farming in 2004.  Today the farm boasts 34 alpacas, 3 llamas, 30 - 40 chickens, and 9 peacocks.  Carol and her mother Ellie Hunter are among several artisans who create items from the alpaca fiber that range from socks and mittens to hats and even felted alpaca soap.  They also sell fiber for yarn making and felting, and last year donated bags of fiber to help absorb the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The accounting business started up a few years ago.  It specializing in auditing local not-for-profits.  That fills a niche for accounts that the larger accounting firms don't really want, still providing the service to not-for-profits that are required to have it.  Jay also does some personal and business taxes as well.  As the business grows he hopes to hire someone for data entry who can also help man the front of the store as needed.  This week he was still moving from his home office to the new space before the heavy tax season begins later this month.  Frank and Melanie Towner and Doug and Deb Volbrecht have been helping the Engels get the shop ready.

peoplesmarket_jayfiberroomEngels Accounting (left) takes part of the back of the storefront, and has its own entrance. The fiber room (right) offers a place to come and knit among the alpaca yarns and fibers.

The Engels say the new location will be more convenient for accounting customers because it's more centrally located, and they may use the drop box left by the bank that last inhabited the storefront so clients can drop off paperwork at any time.

In addition to local goods they sell, the Engels buy local as well.

"We've tried to stay local," Carol says.  "We're using local businesses for our signs.  The counter top was from Fingerlakes Reuse.  My brother built the rest of the counter from rough cut lumber we had in the barn.  We've been using things from Fingerlakes Reuse a lot to help set the office up.  The tile was from the tile store that was across from Green Star.  When they closed they cut their counter into pieces."

The store got its name from a sign the Engels bought 15 or 20 years ago just because they liked it.  It sat in their barn.  It is now prominently displayed above the counter.

"It encompasses what we're trying to do here," says Jay.  "There are a lot of people involved."

Pin It