On Sunday, June 23, over 60 Merchants and Makers will gather in the recently renovated Holland Civic Center. Shoppers and party goers will gather to stroll the booths, snack at the food trucks, grab a drink at the bar and listen to music by Plain Jane Glory.
This isn’t your grandmother’s bazaar, although she would probably have a blast. It’s Etsy in person. It’s a curated party of handmade goodness. It’s a new generation of craft fair and it’s a growing movement that has more than doubled in size and number since it started just two years ago.
It also wouldn’t be happening if Hope College Residential Life and Housing hadn’t paired up Shyle Edelmayer ’07 Lyons and Meghan Follen ’07 French as roommates in Dykstra Hall when they arrived at Hope in the fall of 2003. They first met during Orientation at their residence hall check-in and became fast friends. Their parents all went to high school in Grand Haven and they both had grandfathers who played football at Hope. Shyle and Meghan went on to live in Gilmore Hall and VanDreiser Cottage before graduating and pursuing their own professional interests.
Shyle worked at Bethany Christian Services in foster care, Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer coordinator and with a YMCA after school program. Meghan’s career focused on graphic design, marketing and special events. When Shyle moved to San Diego, Meghan moved into her apartment in Grand Haven.
It was in San Diego when Shyle attended maker’s arcades and realized that the craft fair concept could be a lot more fun. She had a vision for events that would create community and be more enjoyable for shoppers and vendors alike. In a world of Target and Amazon, she realized that people craved an experience where they could meet the people that make food, drinks and goods locally.
After Shyle moved back to Michigan she teamed back up with Meghan to host the first Merchants and Makers at Watermark Church in February of 2017. They have since incorporated, grown to host events in all seasons that draw up to 75 vendors and 1,400 shoppers. Each event has a unique location, group of artists, music, food and drink. They have continued to grow and support a community of artists, who gather once a month to talk marketing, social media, product photography and pricing strategies and to encourage one another. They focus on collaboration over competition and always have room to welcome new makers.
They look back at their experience at Hope College, and their old scrapbook shown below, with nostalgia. They recognize that they first learned about purpose and calling at Hope. They have taken those lessons to heart as they have followed interests and talents that light them up and meet a need in the community. They also learned to be adaptable and open-minded and about the importance of building community.
Their advice for students today is to spend more time creating, taking more than just required courses. They encourage everyone to explore interests and passions and remind students to be open-minded about where life can take them. Shyle went from social work and foster care to selling clothes, to motherhood, to heading down a completely different path with Merchants and Makers. She has a degree in social work that she may never directly use again. However, she shares that it isn’t any less valuable. The skills she learned in public service she now applies to creating new communities and new markets.
If you’d like to see this community in action, check out the Merchants and Makers event at the Holland Civic Center on Sunday, June 23 from 12 to 5 pm. There is a $3 entry at the door. Cash and cards are accepted. Shyle and Meghan can’t wait to meet you there.