At The DIME Store in Denton, Home Is Where the Art Is

On South Locust Street in Denton, between the Davis Purity Bakery and El Guapo's, sits a small brick building. Inside, children's stuffed animals, kitchen tea towels, handbags and a menagerie of other items are lined along the walls and arranged on tabletops, in baskets and even on an old stove. Almost everything here at The DIME Store (Denton Independent Maker Exchange) is for sale -- even the furniture. What sets this store apart from others, though, is that everything is handcrafted by more than 40 artists local to Denton (meaning they have either lived in Denton or still do).

The DIME Store started as Etsy Denton back in 2010, an online store on Etsy veterans Rachel Aughtry, who makes one-of-a-kind handbags, and Shelley Christner, who creates funky housewares, started Etsy Denton after meeting at the Denton Community Market in 2010, a local art and produce market. All the vendors, including Aughtry and Christner, came out each week to sell their pieces. "We formed a little community," Aughtry says. Aughtry, 25, holds a bachelor's degree from UNT in fiber art, while Christner (who's a little older) has her bachelor's in engineering geology from Texas A&M. "I always had been a more creative person," Christner says. "[Engineering geology] wasn't really my desire, it was more something my father wanted me to do. I wanted to be an interior designer. But that wasn't acceptable." After earning her degree, she got married and started a family. Now, more than 20 years later, she gets to live her creative dream alongside Aughtry. And it all started at the Denton Community Market.

In the beginning, the market was only open once a week, and the active season was pretty short. The two decided to start Etsy Denton as a way to keep the sense of community going year-round. Soon after forming the online shop, they held a sale out of Christner's barn, thinking it would be something fun to do. "To our surprise, about 500 people came to it," Aughtry says. "We realized there was a real need for it."

The pair started holding extra shows to feed the demand, and the crowds kept growing and growing. After their fall 2012 season, their next step was obvious: a brick and mortar store. The two took out a business loan and opened up The DIME Store (while still running their individual Etsy shops). Finding the merchandise was simple. "We just asked all our friends who we'd been working with [in the art community], who we'd created these great relationships with," Aughtry says. Soon, the quirky boutique was filled with handmade jewelry, couch pillows, soaps, makeup and even coffee tables, plus much more. All in addition to Aughtry's handbags and Christner's housewares, of course. And still more artists want to become a part of DIME. To have their crafts sold at the store, new artists have to apply so that the owners can get a sense of their general aesthetic and online presence. "We have an application that's online," Aughtry says. "As we have a need for more merchandise in the store, we go through those and see who would be a good fit."

"There's a diversity of personalities and ages [among our artists] but all with a genuine interest in producing a quality, handmade product," Christner says. "Everybody has such a unique prospective on things, a unique take on their craft."

What makes The DIME Store so special, its commitment to local artistry, is what draws customers in. "I love that it's specifically Denton," Aughtry says. "You can go to handmade shops all over the country, and a lot of them carry local stuff or local to their state. But to have one that's local to a town of about 150,000 people is awesome. I don't think in most towns with a population this size you could have more than 40 people this talented ... I love that we have so much talent here. "

The DIME Store participates in First Friday, a once-a-month event celebrated by local businesses across downtown Denton. check out DIME's event page to see what's in store for next month.

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Jane R. LeBlanc
Contact: Jane R. LeBlanc