ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
If you are struggling for gift ideas for that hard-to-buy-for person on your shopping list, the craftspeople of Burns would like to help.
Prairie Arts, a new arts and crafts store, opened Nov. 14 in downtown Burns-just in time for holiday shopping.
“We’ve got some fabulous craftspeople around here who need a place to market their handcrafts. What better than to do it right here in Burns?” said Carolyn Koehn, Burns city clerk who has been instrumental in bringing new business to town.
Koehn said she and Community National Bank President Steve Waite had been talking about the possibility of opening a crafts store for a year and a half.
“He kept telling me, ‘I think this is really something that would work well in Burns,'” Koehn said. “We wanted a place here that would feature our Burns handcrafters and provide a retail outlet for them and showcase what we have here.”
The silver Quonset building housing the store has been there for years, but until its recent makeover, it wasn’t a place you’d notice.
“Steve purchased it and offered to supply it to us for one year with no rent,” Koehn said. “He had it insulated, he put new tin on, he brought in the power, he’s putting in a bathroom. He turned it over to us and we started our very own handcrafters association.”
The association has grown to 14 members. Most are from the Burns community, but governing board members Judi Steward and Deloris Shannon said they welcome members from other areas.
“We’re looking for more members because we have some gaps here,” Koehn said.
Craftspeople must be members of the association in order to have a booth at Prairie Arts.
“We have some guidelines and a membership form they have to sign,” said Shannon. “We charge a yearly fee and then booth rent. They can choose their own booth size.”
The craftspeople also serve as clerks in the store.
“Everybody in the association has to work and manage it,” said Shannon.
“We do it so we don’t have to hassle with any payroll and it keeps costs down,” Koehn added.
Prairie Arts opened in time for holiday shoppers, but it’s not intended to be only a seasonal business.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Koehn said.
The posted hours are Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but they are also open “by chance or appointment” during weekdays, Shannon said.
This weekend Prairie Arts will have special holiday shopping hours as part of Burns’ “Christmas in the Country” promotion Dec. 6 and 7.
“Nearly every merchant is going to be open at least part of the time,” Steward said.
During the promotion, Prairie Arts will add Sunday hours of noon to 3 p.m. Guests who stop by during the promotion will be treated to refreshments as they stroll through the arts and crafts booths.
Steward said the governing board has worked hard to coordinate a good mix of handcrafts.
“We want to have a nice variety,” she said.
A tour of the building reveals just about every type of craft imaginable-handmade dolls, stuffed toys, wood crafts, dulcimers, walnut carved vintage cars and trucks, wheat weavings, children’s themed book bags, machine quilting, wood furniture, silk floral arrangements, oil painting, photography, bath salts and soaps and jewelry made with glass beads and gem stones.
Koehn sees Prairie Arts as a place for community members to showcase a variety of goods created locally.
“On Saturdays, we’ll sell baked goods and pre-packaged food mixes,” Koehn said.
Locally made barbecue grills and smokers are also available at Prairie Arts.
“They’ve sold these nationwide,” Koehn said. “They’ve never had a retail outlet here.”
Even the corn stove that heats the building is marketed locally.
Prairie Arts will also feature the community’s musical talent. CDs by local artist Barbara Anderson are available for sale at the shop, and the store itself serves as a musical venue.
For those interested in the music, Friday night might be the best time to come.
“We have live music most Friday nights,” Steward said. “It’s whoever wants to come-it’s quite a jam session.”
For information about how to become a member of Prairie Arts Association or to check on holiday hours, call the shop at 620-726-5200 or Judi Steward at 620-726-5807.