The Ashland Artisan Emporium, nicknamed “AAE” or the “Emporium,” is inviting you to their annual storewide sale and anniversary party being held Saturday, November 9th! This occasion will mark their ninth year in business and serve as the official yearly kick-off to amazing local holiday shopping! Explore over 180 individually curated booths, artfully offering everything from local crafts, to books, to clothing, to home décor, to furniture and worldly goods – the Emporium is home to thousands of items sure to please even the most discerning of shoppers. In today’s interview I sit down with local owner Michelle Christian.
Hi Michelle, welcome back and congratulations on your 9th year of AAE!
To begin with, can you give us a little history of how AAE came to be?
The story of the shop is close to my heart. A little over nine years ago now, my father asked me to help him bring to life a vision that he had for this very large space that had been home to DJ’s Video for two decades. When DJ’s Video moved out, he was inspired to fill this space with many small booths that we could rent out to anyone wanting to sell their wares. He knew Ashland would welcome this type of business. Ashland is filled with such creative souls with so much to share, but the commercial rents are extraordinarily high, making it really hard for small independent businesses to survive. My dad knew that we are stronger together – so we created a business that would be created by and shared with the community. The business opened with a bang in November of 2010. I gave birth to my third daughter a month later, and two months after that, my father passed away. The next three years were very hard, I wanted to give up everything. Luckily, I was surrounded by people who cared about his idea too much to watch me let it die. I was supported and loved through my time of grief while the store grew, despite the sadness I carried. By the time my baby and the store turned 3 (in the same year), my grief became less a deafening storm and more a steady creek, and the store took off. AAE is now a celebration of his life and parting vision, and a joyous place for me to spend my days. I have met people through the store that have changed my life. I have a staff around me that means the world to me, and without them, AAE would’ve died along with my dad.
Wow, that is quite a beginning! Michelle, tell us how the store has evolved over the past years. And where do you see AAE going from here?
When we first opened, I had no idea what kind of vendors we would attract, or if we would even be able to attract vendors at all! Thanks to the people of the Rogue Valley and Northern California, we have always managed to keep the booths full, but our booths have never been more eclectic and more exciting than they are right now! In the beginning, we had a lot of casual vendors that just wanted to try it out, maybe sell their stuffed animal collection or grandma’s dishware. Our vendors now are a next-level bunch, taking their passion and business seriously. They work hard to curate amazing displays and keep their booths stocked with ever-changing and always interesting things. I only see things getting better! There isn’t a day that goes by when a customer doesn’t comment on how things have changed and how good the store looks! And I personally take zero credit for this! AAE is, after all, a community within a business – created for a community by a community – and it shows! I believe that the love my staff and I have for what we do really shows when you walk in the door. I am so lucky to have a front row seat to what is happening under our roof!
Yes! This is my favorite subject! So, if you are like me, the change of season makes me what to change things in my home and in my closet. With AAE, I have been able to do both, and with a small budget! I have completely revamped my living room with some really cool architectural pieces, I have gotten new curtains for my bedroom and furniture for my daughter’s new room. I have added at least 5 new cashmere sweaters to my closet (all for under $30 each) – for 100% cashmere! (Check out booth 496 for this amazing affordable cashmere!) I have also fallen in love with healing crystals this year, and I have acquired over 30 pieces to start my collection. We also have thousands of books, and most are only $1 each! If you haven’t taken advantage of at least that, I ask you, why not? Books, CD’s and DVD’s fly out the door! And our consignment section is always brimming with high quality but affordable furniture pieces. We have some amazing vintage clothing vendors. One of our newest vendors features their artwork on actual gigantic leaves! We have more antiques now than ever, and our home décor game is strong. Seriously, just stop reading now and get here!
What do you love most about the work you do and how does the business continue to inspire you?
What I love most are the people. I love watching people meet one another and make friends here. Again, the sense of community is the best part; that inspires me, the relationships. Everyone is so different, but when we are here, we all have something in common, and it’s very unifying. Everyone here is passionate about what they are selling, and it shows.
Please introduce us to your amazing staff.
Yes, my other favorite subject! My staff is the lifeblood of this place and the real reason I am able to continue this special work. Anna is my manager, and she holds it down for me! She is super kind and smart and keeps everything organized! She makes AAE a better place and she keeps me from losing my mind! She walked in the door 5 years ago to sell her fairy houses and she ended up being an answer to prayer. (Her fairy houses are still a part of our eclectic inventory!) Next up are Maisie and Janice, they have both been with me since the beginning and have supported me through those early dark days. They are true friends! Roxanne and Meghan are both dynamos that put together the amazing store displays and infuse us all with energy and enthusiasm! They also curate their own booths, and you must check them out! Laura has worked for many Sundays and I am grateful for that! We are open 7 days a week, and we do that with only 6 employees! We will be adding some extra hands over the holidays to keep up with everything, including my eldest daughter Quinn. This is a super fun and hard-working bunch and I am blessed to have such a committed team of people around me!
This is our biggest event of the year! It’s the annual kick-off to holiday shopping and a great time to get together and celebrate the season! EVERYTHING will be at least 15% off! That means everything! Saturday, November 9th from 11-6. We will also be offering refreshments and live music throughout the day. We invite all the vendors to come and meet their customers and one another. It’s always a really fun and lively day and a super great way to support local artisans this season. Please mark your calendars! Again, EVERYTHING will be 15% off or more, this one day only. It is our only storewide sale of the year.
Michelle, how fun! Thank you for helping to enrich the community.
Shields, it has been and continues to be, such an honor to host a home for so many wonderful people. I have been given the greatest gift and I do not take it for granted. My life has been enriched by the people that have come through these doors, and my home has been blessed by all the treasures I have acquired through AAE. I am so happy to be able to carry on my dad’s vision. My cup runeth over!
Are there any last thoughts you would like to share?
I just really want to encourage anyone that hasn’t been in yet, to please do so! I know we don’t look like much from the outside and we aren’t downtown with the other cool kids, but when you see what’s inside – you’ll be hooked on us. I guarantee that. And to those of you who have supported us throughout the last 9 years, thank you. We are so grateful.