ELISSA KARA, 38, of South Philly, owns Nice Things Handmade, a boutique gallery she opened in February 2010 on Passyunk Avenue near Pierce Street, not far from her home. It supports 75 local artists, most from the Philly area, and sells handmade ceramics, jewelry, clothing, prints, accessories and artwork.
Q: Tell me about the idea for Nice Things Handmade.
A: I got laid off from my job and I was also an artist at Mew Gallery. I was sad [Mew] closed and decided to open my own boutique gallery.
Q: And the name?
A: My mom had a shop in Atlantic City called Nice Things. She died in 2009 and this store is a tribute to her.
Q: What about money?
A: I had $2,000 my mom left me and I was unemployed. I consider her my angel investor. Friends helped with the build-out, and artists filled the space.
Q: You're an artist.
A: I love sewing and crocheting. I make hats, which I sell here and at craft shows.
Q: The biz model?
A: This is really a boutique gallery because I specialize in new, handmade items from area artists. Some I meet at craft fairs, others on Etsy and Instagram. I curate all kinds of artwork to appeal to the largest demographic possible.
Q: When something sells, how are proceeds split?
A: It's a 50-50 split: Half goes to the artist, half to the shop.
Q: The price range?
A: From $3 for a button to hundreds of dollars for wall art. But plenty of things are $20 to $30. When artists give me things, they should be priced to appeal to a wide range of buyers.
Q: Everything's new?
A: Yes, we are not a consignment store. The only similarity with a consignment shop is the artist gets paid when the item sells, just as a consignee is paid when their used clothing is sold.
Q: What sells best?
A: My customers love Philly things, and I keep an eye out for Philly-centric stuff. One of our biggest sellers is a T-shirt that has a folding chair on it and says "I love Philadelphia."
Q: What differentiates your shop from others?
A: We support the community and also have many local artists. There are certain artists whose stuff you can't get anywhere else. Even if we overlap, every store curates different things because some stuff that might sell well here won't elsewhere.
Q: You are partnering with Philly Free School to host a craft bazaar tomorrow to benefit the school?
A: I have two great customers who work at the Philly Free School. They reached out to me to help raise awareness and support of the school and I said, "Sure, let's have a craft fair."