Art Mart: Local holiday shopping for 67 years

By Alyssa Dearborn

There are many reasons why holiday shoppers should consider shopping local. For the shopper, it can mean finding unique gifts and experiencing what one’s community has to offer. But from a small business’s or artisan’s perspective, a shopper’s choice to shop local means that the money spent directly affects the lives of their neighbors. 

It keeps the money local.” artisan Cheryl Brown said, “You don’t have to send it to Amazon.”

Cheryl Brown is not only a jewelry artist, she is also the vice president and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday manager of Art Mart, a collective of local artisans that hosts pop-up shops. Art Mart is known for its yearly holiday shop that sets up in a Downtown Syracuse storefront. This year, the shop is open from November through Christmas Eve. Before rising into her leadership roles, Cheryl started out as one of Art Mart’s many unique vendors.

We’ve been in existence for 67 years.” Cheryl said about the group, “Obviously the membership has changed. But it started out as mostly fine arts and then they went into the craft side as well. So now it’s a balance between the two.

When asked about the variety of fine arts and crafts available at this year’s pop-up shop, she answered, “We have paintings, we have photography, we’ve got prints of paintings by the artists, jewelry. We have glass, various kinds of glass. Stained glass, ornaments, we’ve got glass dishes, we have glass jewelry. We’ve got a lot of pottery. We’ve got several different potters here. We have one fiber artist who does quilts. There’s different novelty items. [The fiber artist] has these riding horses, the horsehead with a stick. They’re just really cute.”

Passersby who stop to shop at Art Mart appreciate the variety and sometimes find an unexpected find.

We just had a bunch of pumpkins go out of here. There was a fire drill across the street and somebody just happened to pop in and he bought a pumpkin. And he came out and six other people came in because of that. They bought a bunch of stuff. That was pretty fun.” 

An often-overlooked bonus to shopping local is that the creators of each product are a phone call or email away, making custom orders possible. Each table set up at Art Mart’s pop-up shop is stocked with artist business cards and the artists take turns working shifts at the shop.  

If you don’t see something here, you could always contact the artist. Like, if you got a specific idea in mind that you don’t see, talk to the artist.”

In order to provide high quality products that are also varied and unique, the artisans interested in having their work sold at Art Mart must apply and then be selected. 

We’re a juried show.” Cherly explained, “So we have three new people this year, but everybody else here are seasoned veterans. Some have been here for a very long time. And if anybody wants to join, they can. We need to have photographs of their work, their display, and they have to have a tax number, that’s a big requirement. You set up once and your items are available for two months. A lot have done craft shows, so you’re setting up for a weekend and you have to tear down and it’s a lot of work. People know about us and a lot of people come look for us.”

Many of the shoppers who buy from Art Mart are returning shoppers who look forward to shopping there during the holidays. Customers look for Art Mart year after year not only to add a local flair to their gift-giving, but also because the locally crafted products are special.

There are unique items here. There are things that you’re not going to find in the store. It’s a great place to do all of your Christmas shopping because of the wide variety of items that are here. And of course you’re helping the local artists stay in business. It’s a great place to shop. People are friendly. The customers are friendly. Great customer service.”

If you are interested in shopping from the over 30 local artists at Art Mart, visit the pop-up shop at 431-433 South Warren Street in Downtown Syracuse. The shop is open Monday through Saturday up until December 24 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.