“We thought, 'Is it going to be one week, two weeks, a month?,'” says Joy, who runs Make + Matter with fellow owners Rona Chang and Kelly Simpson-Scupelli. In addition to Make + Matter, all three women have their own Pittsburgh-based businesses – Joy owns the sustainable clothing label, Flux Bene, while Chang and Simpson-Scupelli produce their own clothing and accessories through Otto Finn and Kelly Lane, respectively.
The uncertainty of coronavirus is why they held off on launching an online shop until mid-April. But now customers can finally go online and buy from the shop's various locally handmade fashions, jewelry, and home goods during the shutdown. Some items currently available include: body care by Lovett Sundries and Arbor House, makeup by The Tart Peach, statement necklaces and earrings by Sasha, and prints by KLoRebel Art.
Those featured in the web shop are but a few of the over 30 artists and makers who work with Make + Matter, which started in 2018. “One of the main reasons we opened the shop was the education aspect,” says Joy. “It's been very important for us to share information with the public about how things were made and why it's better to purchase things made locally, why it's better for our economy and really for everyone involved.”
Part of that mission includes informing customers who come into the store about how each piece is made and who made it. “We can still do that on the website, but it is, obviously, not as personal, and everyone prefers to hear a story as opposed to reading a paragraph,” says Joy.
In addition to the web shop, Joy says they're also promoting events and sales being held by Make + Matter clients. “Everyone has really ramped up their online presence during [the pandemic],” says Joy. This comes at a time when many in the local arts community have lost income due to various markets and pop-ups being canceled or postponed, and storefronts like Make + Matter being closed. Despite this, Joy says online sales have been reassuring for many. “The local designers and artists who have spoken with me have all been kind of blown away by the community support,” says Joy. “Everyone who has launched an online store has told me that they're not as worried about money as they thought they would be.”
Besides sales (Make + Matter takes 50% for wholesale purchases and 40% for consignment), Joy says they have applied for various small business grants to keep going. But she and her co-owners have been most surprised by how many people bought gift cards when the store made them available.
“It makes it clear that people want us to stay open, and that really means so much, because this could be a moment where it [would] be really easy to say, 'OK, we're done with this,'” says Joy. “The continued support makes us determined to move forward.”