How to Shop Indie on Your Next Trip

Want your home and closet to be unique, rather than filled with items that could be bought out of a catalog? For special objects to wear and use in your abode, it’s wonderful to buy local from small merchants and support creative people who are working hard to fill the world with beautiful and thoughtful things. You have the satisfaction of owning or wearing something that is truly one-of a kind and also in knowing that you are supporting those who are working to make them. Every destination has its share of local independent (indie) artists, designers, and artisans, if you just know where to look. Here’s how:

Check with the local Chamber of Commerce: 

These civic organizations can be real hubs for the little guy. Give a call to one or pull up the website online and investigate small designers, artists, boutiques, and galleries. If you can reach a real person at the chamber, chances are good that he or she will be delighted to direct you where to find the artists and designers in the area.

Hit the Flea Markets and Tag Sales: 

If you are lucky enough to be making your journey in the warm months, consider the local flea markets and tag or garage sales. Often, local crafters will set up shop at flea markets, and you may find some original clothing designs and art, to boot. At tag sales, keep your eyes open for vintages finds and collectibles at prices much lower than metropolitan boutiques

Read the small press:

 Pick up a local paper, preferably alternative, and read the ads and classifieds, along with the stories. These publications are a compendium of local shopping and culture and can give real clues to the insider lifestyle of a town or region. The ads, especially, can give a good picture of the small businesses that are part of the local economy.

Take the back roads:

Whether you drive to your destination or rent a car to explore once you arrive, take the time to wander through small towns and visit the less touristy areas. Often small artisans will choose to live in rural areas because it’s more affordable and conducive to the creative spirit. If you do a little research before you go, you may be able to arrange a studio visit or two.

Check out artsy coffeehouses: 

Almost every town, from big city to small village these days has some version of the artsy coffee house, featuring small batch coffee beans and, often, local artisans wares. For instance, the Keen Bean in Mount Vernon, Mo., (pop. 5000) near the old Route 66, has amazing grinds and jewelry by local artists for sale, including hand-blown glass tornado pendants that benefit survivors of the ferocious Joplin tornado. Check out the local coffee house in your next destination and you will be surprised at the local arts and culture it supports.

Native gift shops and galleries: 

As a part of any indie culture in an area, you can also count on there being specialty shops and galleries that support the sales of local designers, artists, and artisans. If you strike up a conversation with the owners or managers, they can connect you with creative types and their work. Whether you are looking for a beautiful quilt, a special piece of clothing, or a new piece of art, these shops and galleries are the places to get connected and make your purchase.

Find the artsy people: 

No matter how small, every town has its share of creative talent. Go to the places where they gather, whether coffeehouses, open mikes, gallery parties, or clubs that support area musicians. Taking the time to mix and mingle, or making a studio visit, as suggested earlier, can put you in touch with the creative spirit of a place and that can be the most fulfilling part of your vacation. It’s always a pleasure to connect with what makes a place unique, and local artists and artisans are a big part of that in any region.