Marie Zaccagnini has always loved making jewelry, but, like many artists, had a hard time selling enough to make it her full-time job.
That changed this summer with the opening of Newbury Handmade Market, a co-op-style brick-and-mortar storefront comprising some 20 Etsy artisans on one of Boston’s most prestigious shopping streets.
“It’s pretty much changed our life,” said Zaccagnini, who co-owns Freyja Jewels, with partner Kate Pride. “We had a really hard time struggling with our business. Now this is what I do full time.”
The 301 Newbury St. outpost was born after three successful pop-up shops in the space (the first for three weeks in 2013, again for nine weeks last summer and finally four weeks last winter) to gauge customers’ enthusiasm. The concept is a shrewd marriage of Etsy cachet and Back Bay pedigree arranged by Lara Gordon, a science teacher turned jewelry designer who started her own line, Rocked Jewelry, on Etsy and started selling outside the Snowden International School on Dartmouth Street three years ago.
“[Sometimes] I’d be out there five hours and bring home four figures,” said Gordon, a Brandeis University graduate.
While street vending, Gordon befriended some other artists including Shadan Safavi, a jeweler who sells her hand-knotted pieces at Newbury Handmade Market with her husband, Amir Zoka.
“The market is a place to talk about my pieces — there is life and history behind them,” said Safavi, who finds beads for her Shadan Design pieces at markets and bazaars in Europe and the Middle East. “People who come start knowing us and they come back with their friends.”
Safavi’s jewels are displayed toward the back of the market. Along the walls are other mini showrooms featuring soaps and candles from Urban Kitchen Handmade in Allston, beard oil and mustache wax from The Little Hop Shop in Cambridge, and infinity scarves made from vintage belts from BXB by Jenny Buxton, who hails from Northfield. Some of the artists work other jobs such as jeweler Ann Kabza, a registered nurse from Jamaica Plain, and Bob Brown, a lawyer, who makes glass animals including signature bulbous chickens. Shoppers can spend as little as $3.50 on lip balm and upward of $3,900 for a piece of jewelry.
“I’m currently not at full capacity,” said Gordon, who supplements the local talent with Etsy artists from around the globe.
Gordon said she gets a reduced rent from the landlord, paying in the four-figure range for the 1,400-square-foot space. Newbury Handmade’s regular artists pay $1,400 for a 3-foot by 4-foot space.
“I love selling for others,” said Safavi. “I like to see how people merchandise their displays, and see the materials they have. It all helps it sell better.”
For its part, Etsy has sent support in the form of flags that hang outside the market as well as Etsy branded notepads and buttons, but the 10-year-old company (with its 1.4 million sellers and $1.93 billion in gross sales last year) is not actively involved, Gordon said.
“They should,” she suggested. “It’d be good to increase their presence.”
But Zaccagnini said it’s the storefront that’s raised the profile of her jewelry line more than the online marketplace.
“People are finding us that never would have found us. We don’t have to do a lot of [trade] shows,” she said. “Here we’ve gotten a lot of custom orders, engagement orders, people asking for more unique pieces.”
Safavi’s customer base has also grown, and she said the retail chemistry with the other artisans adds to the energy in the store.
“All the people that work here, we have a really good time, and we help each other so much. There’s so much sharing,” she said.
Beyond its cooperative sensibility, Newbury Handmade is a welcome neighborhood tenant for customers who want small independent businesses and startups to share the street with big designer brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Tiffany. Tom Brennan, vice president at C. Talanian Realty, said monthly rents range from $5,000-$6,000 on the block between Gloucester and Hereford streets, compared with the $70,000-$80,000 the first block of Newbury commands.
“I have people calling from all over the world to see what’s available,” said Brennan.
The glamour of the street draws customers year-round. During the summer months, tourists swarm the cobblestone sidewalks. In the cool weather, locals keep the retail scene humming through the holidays.
Kit Hickey, cofounder of Ministry of Supply, a Boston-based performance menswear company, said having a physical location, at 299 Newbury St., has enhanced the apparel brand’s business.
“It was kind of amazing. We can watch how [customers] shop, what they think about when buying clothes,” she said, adding there’s a “halo effect of being on Newbury.”
“Once we opened, we saw our online sales in Boston increase. People saw the store on Newbury and the next time they saw an online ad, we were top of mind.”Jill Radsken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.