Historic co-op WomanCraft Gifts in Carrboro debuts online store in response to pandemic
Janie Galloway, manager of WomanCraft Gifts in Chapel Hill, poses for a virtual portrait with one of her many glass works featured at the co-op on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. She describes the store’s transition online as a positive and exciting change in making the store’s artworks more accessible to the community. “Much of our business typically comes from visitors to Chapel Hill, parents, and tourists. With students not on campus, there have not been as many of these customers, so going online will provide them with access to what we have to offer.”
The second-oldest artisan co-op in the country, Carrboro's WomanCraft Gifts, launched its online store on Oct. 10 after decades in business.
WomanCraft Gifts was established in 1973, entirely by women, with the goal to create a place where women could share and sell their work and create a community centered around hand crafts.
Now, WomanCraft Gifts has a membership of about 25 artists, all of whom take part in the running and operations of the store in Carrboro. In addition, about 30 consignors contribute their art for sale.
Janie Galloway, marketing chairperson for WomanCraft Gifts, said the co-op had previously thought of plans for an online store, though they had never materialized.
“We’ve always considered it, but the COVID crisis kind of took things to a head,” Galloway said. “We were shut down completely for almost two full months.”
Galloway said reaching out to local clients, an email list that includes about 2,000 people, aided in countering the financial hurdle caused by the pandemic.
“We would send photos of things that were available in the store and we had people volunteer to come in on certain days of the week to take phone orders," Galloway said.
The members first convened in July to develop an approach, and then worked to build the site throughout August and September. Galloway said the online store will be a small fraction of the shop and provide a sample of what people can find there.
Paula Mattocks, WomanCraft Gifts’ longest-serving member, said the variety of skills among the co-op’s staff is what made the idea a reality.
“We have people who are good organizers, some who are good with computers, and others who are wonderful with photographs and have experience with online stores,” Mattocks said. “We all have strengths that can share the burden of responsibility.”
Mattocks joined WomanCraft Gifts in 1974, and worked for many years as a nurse at UNC Hospitals. Now that she is retired, Mattocks said she has more time to devote to the business.
She said WomanCraft Gifts has been in Carrboro for nearly six years, and its location there has given inspiration for the co-op’s formation of an online presence to expand its market.
Mattocks said the store's location next to the Hampton Inn means customers come from out of town and out of the state. She said a woman from Wyoming recently stopped at the store while walking to get dinner.
"She now knows we’re debuting an online store," Mattocks said. "And now when she gets back to Wyoming, she can remember to check us out.”
Paul Daughtry, a long-time customer of WomanCraft Gifts, said he prefers to come in person, but supports the idea of an online store.
WomanCraft Gifts has a dynamic array of inventory, which means a certain art piece or craft item isn’t consistently in stock. Because of this, Daughtry said customers must have visual contact with products to know what’s available.
“Shops like this, nobody necessarily knows what’s available," he said. "You can’t just call up and ask, ‘Do you have this or that?’ This is a place you have to physically come and look around. So if it’s online, now you can peruse through the site and see what they’re selling without having to come in.”
While WomanCraft Gifts is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, the new online store can be accessed at any time at https://womancraftgifts.com.
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