ESSEX – The seed for an idea that started as an anonymous Instagram account for artists and craftspeople across the state has grown into a collaborative venture called Makers of Maryland. The person behind the idea and Instagram profile, Stephanie Persichitti, from Essex, has set up a pop-up shop for local vendors to sell their wares in a former Pier 1 Imports building on White Avenue Marsh which will remain open until the end of the calendar year.
“I haven’t figured out yet that I’ve done this,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
Inside the 10,000-square-foot store, 56 Maryland-based arts and crafts vendors, consisting of carpenters, jewelry makers, and photographers, take up the space and earn thousands of dollars a month. on their products. Persichitti even sells its own scented candles, which it started making in its forties last year.
In 2018, Persichitti informally created an anonymous Instagram account called “Makers of Maryland” and followed other artists in the area and created posts to engage audiences. She had previously joined an internet discussion group with other artisans and decided that the group needed a better outlet to market its products.
She had wanted to see if the account would succeed before telling the others that it was her. She had no idea what success would be as monumental as it is today.
Persichitti took her big break after closing a Pier 1 Imports store on White Marsh Avenue in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A representative for the avenue leasing company, Federal Realty Investment Trust, was familiar with the “Makers of Maryland” and spoke with Persichitti about the possibility of filling the front of a pop-up store.
Persichitti had worked with the same company in 2019 to fill an empty retail space on the same promenade, but it was only 1,200 square feet with 20 vendors and lasted from November 2 to Christmas Eve.
When Persichitti first saw the empty space in the store, she wasn’t sure she could fill it with enough salespeople.
“I was like, ‘Have you lost your mind? There’s no way I can fill that space, ”she said. “But it all happened organically, and here we are.”
Although she said she wasn’t too interested in running another pop-up store, when she received this offer it was like a “sign from the universe.”
For Persichitti’s first store, the leasing rep emailed her after seeing her Instagram account and asked if she wanted to open a pop-up store in November.
“I said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but yeah,’” she said.
In 2020, the company asked her to host five festivals with vendors in pop-up tents, and then had to cancel due to COVID-19. In February of this year, she found a new lease of life and contacted the company about options to market the “Makers of Maryland” and the rep told her about the Pier 1 Imports space.
Fortunately, she says, several sellers have returned from the previous store. But she also received a large number of applications from vendors, so much, in fact, that she had the option of selecting the type of vendor kiosks she wanted in the store.
“The universe has given me people who have aligned with me and my vision,” she said.
During the opening day, the new store made more money than the previous store for the duration of its opening; not to mention the queue for the store was at the door.
Each salesperson pays rent for retail space in the store and is required to work at least five shifts over four months, and 8% of all profits are reinvested in the store for equipment and supplies.
In April, she started building the store, placing the salespeople in different spaces “with no rhyme or reason why” and asking them to set up their own spaces as they see fit, she said.
“My motto is ‘Do whatever you want’,” she said.
To open, however, she also needed supplies, and with permission from the leasing company, she ransacked a recently closed AC Moore store on the promenade.
“It all happened so fast,” she said. “I made a lot of to-do lists and contacted people I trusted, and after only a month we opened.”
Next, Persichitti has her eyes set on Philadelphia, where she plans to open another pop-up store in an empty shuttered store in 2022 under the name “Makers of Pennsylvania”. She negotiated a lease with the same company and created another Instagram account to promote the area’s businesses and arts and crafts vendors.
She eventually wants to open other stores in Boston and Richmond.
“My ultimate goal is to teach others to lead them,” she said. “I’m just going to fill the role of facilitator, call the stores ‘the makers of it all’ and own the LLC.”