The Estevan General Store is now open, and getting more variety ahead of the holiday season

Precooked meals and pickled eggs, jewellery, wooden and stuffed toys, body products, candles and melts, wall hangers and prints, popcorn and holiday decorations, birdhouses and refurbished fancy antique furniture, refined kitchen accessories and clay mugs, clothes, succulents, wine, cider and beer starting kits, chocolate, cookies and much more.

With vendors joining the Estevan General Store, located at 1206 Fourth Street, every other day, this new business has a wide variety of handcrafted items that could make great gifts or become a wonderful addition to any home.

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Kendra Sutherland started with the local General Store at the end of September and so far Estevan hasn't disappointed her.

"It's been excellent. Estevan's been really warm and welcoming," said Sutherland.

General Store
The General Store is located at 1206 Fourth Street in Estevan. Photo by Anastasiia Bykhovskaia

She opened her doors in Estevan on Sept. 28 and by mid-October she already had 53 vendors joining the family.

"They are all Saskatchewan local handmades. We have people from Lampman, Estevan, Bienfait, Regina, Moose Jaw, some from Saskatoon. They are from everywhere," explained Sutherland.

The General Store welcomes variety and Sutherland ensures that there is no direct competition. She also tries to find something unique among the vendors who would draw a crowd into the store.

"I only have two that aren't handmade here right now, just because our focus is to help the handmade world because it is a tough go."

Sutherland opened her first general store in Weyburn in November 2019. Her goal was to create opportunities for home-based businesses and local crafters to display their products without investing much money and personal time into sales. Being a crafter herself, Sutherland knew first-hand how hard it was to make any money in that field, and also realized how time-consuming it was.

"I make soy candles and melts, and I was driving around delivering five-dollar products. I've been spending hours delivering five-dollar products, so my profits were gone. I needed a storefront, but everywhere I found wanted 40-50 per cent of my sales, and I can't afford that," recalled Sutherland.

"So the whole idea behind it was to help everybody. I know how hard it is to be a maker, get your product out, be able to work and be a mother. It was just hard, really hard.

"So this way if we all do it together, it's doable."

The Weyburn General Store proved to be a success, growing from 42 to just over 80 vendors in less than a year, and Sutherland hopes to see the same happen in Estevan.

"Keep the rent low, get lots of us in here and everybody is doing excellent. Most of my vendors in Weyburn have been there since the beginning … It's just a team effort."

Vendors willing to be displayed at the General Store can contact Sutherland through the store's Facebook page. There is an application form that they would need to fill out to be considered. Sutherland said she hopes to see more Estevan crafters and artists joining the store in the future, as she is doing her best to help everybody succeed.

"I'm trying to make as much room for as many vendors as I can because it just helps everybody to get their product out."

General Store
The General Store offers many different options for displaying the products. Photo by Anastasiia Bykhovskaia

There are different ways to display and accommodate vendors. Sutherland works on a commission basis with artists because it's a harder sell, but everyone else just pays rent, which starts from $45 a month.

"Everything you sell, you keep 100 per cent of your profits. I pay it out every month to you. I don't keep anything from sales," said Sutherland.

The prices are set by vendors and they also submit the inventory list. Sutherland barcodes everything in and out, just like other stores, and the items can be paid for by debit, credit card or cash.

"Every month I just go and print sales for each vendor. So we have all their inventory, sales and tax tracked if they charge tax," explained Sutherland, adding that it took her about six months to find a proper software to accommodate her needs.

There is still room for many more vendors to be displayed. Sutherland also still runs the candle business, and offers customized printing, selling such products as shirts, mugs and more. But running the two general stores is love.

"I love it. Just for all the awesome vendors I get to meet and the customers every day, and the busyness of it. I like to be busy, I like the hustle and bustle. It's just awesome."

Sutherland is currently running her store in the front part of the building, but she said that in the future she plans to develop the entire space. And while she already has some plans in her head for the back part of the shop, she said no decisions have been made as of yet.

"I think we are going to renovate (the back area) after Christmas. We have something new cooking for it back there. We haven't released what it is yet, but something new for Estevan," she said.

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