The nonprofit organization has launched a website, ILoveThreeOaks.org, and will soon open a welcome center in downtown Three Oaks at 13 North Elm Street. The welcome center will sell I Love Three Oaks merchandise and showcase member makers and merchants.
The organization also is planning an open house where people can learn more about the organization on Saturday, June 12, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Three Oaks Social Club. Complimentary light bites will be served and a cash bar will be available.
“The mission of the Makers & Merchants Alliance is to support the thriving community of independent artisans and businesses in our historic village and to create joyful experiences for area residents and visitors across all generations,” said founder and president Suzanna Bierwirth, owner of Goods & Heroes design store, co-owner of the Three Oaks Social Club event venue, and maker of Sinn Botanik skincare products.
As a village founded by E. K. Warren, who was both a maker and a merchant, Three Oaks is steeped in a history of fine craftsmanship, Bierwirth said. “Our village is known as a creative community, with artists and entrepreneurs of every kind, from painters and clay artists to musicians and storytellers, to butchers, bakers, and whiskey makers. We’re excited to highlight the unique people and endeavors of our community.”
Membership in the organization is available at various levels: Makers, Merchants, Allies, and Lovers. Maker and Merchant memberships are open to business owners and individuals who create products or provide services through businesses in Three Oaks village or township. Membership as an Ally is available to nonprofit organizations that support Three Oaks residents. Lover memberships are open to anyone in the world. To join the organization, visit ilovethreeoaks.org.
Bierwirth said members will benefit by expanding their reach and offsetting the cost of marketing through regular joint advertising, public relations, promotions, and events.
“Members have so much to gain from the collective expertise of the marketing and communications professionals on our board. We have over 100 years of combined experience just among the founding members,” she said.
In addition to Bierwirth, founding board members are: vice-president Bridget Verdun, owner of Just B. maker space and maker of Occasionally Speaking letterpress greeting cards; treasurer Ellie Mullins, co-owner of Patellie’s Pizza and P+E Bottle Shop; secretary Colleen Newquist, maker of Stop and Smell the Butter: A Journal of Appreciative Living; and board members Carolyn Drier, owner of Drier’s Meat Market; Kendra Grant, co-owner of Poppy Hill Vintage; Kim Pruitt, artist and owner of Dawning Art; and Gavin Gray, a lover of Three Oaks whose donation helped launch the organization.
“I’m not a maker or a merchant, but I’ll tell you why I joined: because you won’t find a more dynamic group of creative people than the women who have launched this alliance,” Gray said. “They’re already doing great things for Three Oaks, and this organization provides the opportunity to bring other artists and business owners together and make the most of their talent and energy.”
“And, of course, I also joined because I love Three Oaks,” he said. “If you’re looking for one of a kind, this village is it—the people, the products, the place. There’s truly no place like it.”
In addition to their roles with the Makers & Merchants Alliance, several members have strong ties with village government. Newquist is an elected member of the Three Oaks Village Council, and Drier and Bierwirth both serve on the Downtown Development Authority, which Bierwirth chairs.
Bierwirth said she has been asked what the difference is between the Makers & Merchants Alliance and the DDA.
“The main difference between the DDA and the Alliance is that the purpose of the DDA, which is a branch of government, is to maintain historic preservation while improving public spaces and attracting private investments to the village. The purpose of the Alliance is to build up and align the business and creative communities for the mutual benefit of members and the village. We are separate but complementary organizations,” she said.
To join the organization and learn more, visit ilovethreeoaks.org.
Founders of the Three Oaks Makers & Merchants Alliance gathered in front of their welcome center last month. From left: Colleen Newquist, Kendra Grant, Bridget Verdun, Carolyn Drier, Suzanna Bierwirth, Gavin Gray, Kim Pruitt, Ellie Mullins.