Fountain City store allows local artists to reach local customer

Fountain City store allows local artists to reach local customers

Posted:
Even the holiday music that echoes throughout the Knoxville Soap, Candle and Gifts store in Fountain City is locally produced. Even the holiday music that echoes throughout the Knoxville Soap, Candle and Gifts store in Fountain City is locally produced.
Jodi Bowlin and her business partner, Renee Olaechea, joined forces to buy and re-brand the old Knoxville Soap store three years ago. Jodi Bowlin and her business partner, Renee Olaechea, joined forces to buy and re-brand the old Knoxville Soap store three years ago.
Katrina Lowe is one of the artists helping to fulfill the store's local mission. Katrina Lowe is one of the artists helping to fulfill the store's local mission.
Mary Jane Harned (left) and Elizabeth Lynch are a mother and daughter team who make The Birds and the Beads jewelry. Mary Jane Harned (left) and Elizabeth Lynch are a mother and daughter team who make The Birds and the Beads jewelry.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

FOUNTAIN CITY (WATE) - Most Americans will spend about $790 this holiday season, and that is on gifts alone, not decorations.

So imagine if there was a concerted effort to keep a bigger share of those dollars here at home. A shop in Fountain City is designed to do just that.

Even the holiday music that echoes throughout the Knoxville Soap, Candle and Gifts store in Fountain City is locally produced, just like the soaps, candles, pillows and other items available for purchase.

"Each piece that is in here is not only locally-made, I know that it is made with love and good intention," said Jodi Bowlin.

Bowlin is the face often associated with the store, but it was she and business partner Renee Olaechea who joined forces to buy and re-brand the old Knoxville Soap store three years ago.

"Renee and I had the vision and knew we had customers who just want to buy things made in Tennessee," Bowlin explained.

Katrina Lowe is one of the artists helping to fulfill the store's local mission. She recently put on a pottery demonstration during a holiday open house.

"I would not have an outlet at all if local businesses did not help," Lowe said.

Other artists have experienced the same win-win, like Mary Jane Harned and Elizabeth Lynch, a mother and daughter team who make The Birds and the Beads jewelry.

"It is a hobby that got out of hand, so we are just happy that Jodi agreed to let us put our jewelry here in this store," said Mary Jane.

That decision helped the shop get an exclusive jewelry line to sell and it helped the women turn their pastime into something much greater.

"We started with one cabinet, started with asking if we could put in a few things," said Elizabeth. "Then another cabinet, another stand, we just started making more and more and it became sort of a small business."

The store owners believe in buying local so much they are part of an online campaign that helps promote the local economy.

"What it is is a project designed to educate people about the importance of buying locally," said Bowlin.

The 3/50 Project offers an online database of non-chain, locally-based stores. People can easily access the list of participating stores in any particular city to support that area's local economy.

"Pick three, spend 50," explained Bowlin. "Pick three businesses that you would really miss if we went out of business, and spend $50 a month and keep brick and mortar independent business open in your community."

In case of Knoxville Soap, Candle and Gifts, that in turn supports the 40-plus artists featured there.

In the summer, the shop sells almost 100 percent locally-made items. Right now, it has about 50 percent items made in our area.

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