A longtime area real estate agent said she hopes to be part of a movement that brings back "shop hopping" to Olde Pickerington Village after recently opening an artisan marketplace there.
Janis Francis, a Baltimore resident who lives in the Pickerington Schools district, said she realized a dream that was more than 10 years in the making when she opened The Humble Crate, 18 E. Columbus St., in the heart of Pickerington's historic downtown Nov. 25.
True to its name, the 800-square-foot store is the antithesis of large, corporate retail businesses that sell mass-produced artworks and home furnishings.
"When my daughter and I were talking years ago, I said, 'I want to do something that is the exact opposite of big box,' " Francis said. "So I opened up my thesaurus and 'humble' was an opposite of big and 'crate' was another word for box.
"I've had this in my head for over a decade. I just like to support local."
As of Jan. 9, Francis was featuring 54 vendors in her consignment artisan marketplace.
"There are more to be coming," she said. "The closest vendor lives a block away. The furthest is down by Athens."
The Humble Crate's offerings include paintings, jewelry, glasswork, knives, organic honey, clothing, homemade popcorn, beard-care items and crafts made by and that support developmentally disabled people.
In addition to Pickerington and surrounding communities, her artists come from such places as Blacklick, Hilliard, Lancaster, Nelsonville and Zanesville.
"It's a home-decor and gift shop," Francis said. "You can come in here and you can find anything for a birthday, anniversary, for any age.
"I've wanted to do something like this for years. I've talked to people all these years. I was just looking for the right spot."
Francis has been a real-estate agent for 22 years.
She sells homes and other properties for Re/Max Connection Realtors and is manager of the Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market.
In the 1980s, the Humble Crate space was a pool hall. It also formerly housed Deblin's Designs and was later Rudy Stefanitsis' real estate office.
Francis said she eyed the 18 E. Columbus St. property for several years before working out a lease agreement.
"I wanted to be in the Olde Village, for sure," she said. "When I first moved out here, this strip was full of little shops and people would go shop-hopping all the time.
"In recent years, it just hasn't been that way. I'm hoping I'm going to be part of the start to bring that back.
"We have a lot of foot traffic -- people just walking, walking their kids. We have two parks within walking distance and there's a lot of residential (properties) nearby."
Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce president Theresa Byers called the addition of The Humble Crate to Olde Pickerington Village "much needed."
"Our downtown area is a great place to visit, walk around and see historical sites, but we have seen several stores close over the last few years," Byers said. "Having a place like The Humble Crate where you can visit every day, once a week, or once a month, you will always find something new to shop for.
"(Francis) has hundreds of items and all made by local artisans. We are pleased to see this addition in downtown Pickerington."
The Humble Crate is operating seven days a week. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Francis said she's open every day because she wanted to be available to different shoppers at times when they visit Olde Pickerington.
She said she is hoping to build off early momentum of the business by hosting "Meet the Vendor" events and classes.
"The public, so far, has shown they want this," Francis said. "Once a month we're going to have 'Meet the Vendor' and we're going to have classes to bring more people in.
"Maybe vendors will teach people how to make jewelry, how to make signs, beard care? I'd like to have a crochet class, maybe even an earring-making class?"