DULUTH — Melissa Weisser and Stephanie Wourms have always dreamed of opening a shop where they could display their work. Since November, the duo have teamed up to create ALT Creative, a boutique that showcases nearly 30 artists, in a former H&R Block office at 508 E. Fourth St.
“We’ve been artists and craftspeople for many, many years and have held the same arts and crafts shows in the area for years,” Weisser said. “And it must be a lot to carry all your stuff from show to show. So we always dreamed of having a showcase and inviting other artists.”
Weisser noticed the empty storefront last November with a “for rent” sign in the window.
“We decided to go for it,” Weisser said. “Rent seemed like something we could swing, so we designed a quick logo, signed the papers, and went for it.”
Weisser and Wourms decided to name the store “ALT Creative” because it primarily features handmade creative items and because “‘alt’ means a bit of everything,” according to Weisser.
“Basically, that’s it. We welcome anyone’s art form or expression,” Weisser said. “We have everything from hand-sculpted figurines to hand-poured candles, from fuzzy blankets to beautiful paintings. And we try to keep it all reasonably priced so it remains accessible to everyone, whether you come in with 2 $ or $200.”
The first few months were pretty empty and quiet, Weisser said. But once they started involving more artists and marketing more on social media, things started to look up.
“We started with five artist friends who wanted to sell their stuff,” Weisser said. “Now we are up to 30, and all are from the area.”
In exchange for using the space, the store takes a small share of sales, about 25%, to cover utilities and marketing. Weisser said the store’s main goal was not to make a lot of profit, but to “build a community.”
“I feel like there’s a hole in Duluth for that kind of stuff. We’re here to try to fill that need,” Weisser said. “And to give back like we do. We have artists who are always fundraising alongside their sales, so we can donate to good causes like clean water, Planned Parenthood and support the Ukraine.”
Weisser herself shows off her paintings in the store, along with Lake Superior agate jewelry. Wourms is a crocheter who makes and sells washcloths, heating pads, and market bags. Weisser’s family has also joined the business, with her sister making Lake Superior-themed t-shirts and her mother selling plush blankets, known as “Grandma Patty Blankets.”
“We’re running out of them right now because she’s battling cancer right now,” Weisser said. “But she started making them for people who have a death in the family or are going through some kind of hardship, like she does now. And they’re basically a hug in a blanket. Just having them here in this moment gives a good energy to the shop.”
The store is still recruiting new artists. They haven’t set a cap on artists yet, but Weisser said it’s more important to have artists who are willing to help out in the store and update their displays to keep things fresh and new. .
“We could always use more help to be able to keep the store open for more hours. It’s not something that three or four of us who also work full time can do alone,” said Weisser. “We have a space where artists can work on their projects while they are here and we would like more people to join us.”
ALT Creative is online at altcreateduluth.com.