Schenectady’s Jay St. Collective gives artists a home base

Erin Eckler poses in front of the Jay Street Collective in Schenectady Friday.

Erin Eckler poses in front of the Jay Street Collective in Schenectady Friday.

Schenectady’s Jay Street shopping district has just added a new brick and mortar store to its array of locally-owned boutiques. Schenectady native Erin Eckler is the owner of the Jay St. Collective, a retail marketspace for locally made handcrafted goods.

The Jay St. Collective features exhibits from a multitude of local artists including a display from Eckler herself. Artists are given a six month lease in which they continuously rotate pieces for sale in and out.

The Collective held its grand opening Friday where a number of people waited for the doors to open. Mayor Gary McCarthy stopped by for a visit.

“The support from my friends and the community has been amazing. My eagerness outweighed my fear though I have never started a business before. This has all come together within the past month and I am excited to see where it takes us,” said a beaming Eckler.

She began her entrepreneurial endeavor after the Clinton Street Mercantile, her first space as a vendor, permanently closed this past August. Similar to the Jay St. Collective, the Clinton Street Mercantile served as a venue for numerous artists to showcase and sell their work. When the market closed, artists including Eckler frantically searched for a new location to display their homemade goods.

“I want our artists to have freedom and control over their work. Each of the vendor spaces are set up and created on their own. Artists are given time to figure out what works and how they wish to move forward,” Eckler said. “This is intended to be an incubation period, with spaces available from $70 to $300 a month.”

“The Clinton Street Mercantile served as a home for many artists. Once I learned of its closing I decided to explore opportunities in creating my own store. I knew that Jay St. had an available space so I decided to pursue it,” said Eckler.

She received a lot of support from the former owner of the Clinton Street Mercantile, Brandon Whitall.

“Brandon’s a great friend. I brought the idea of opening my own store to him and he was just as excited as me. Brandon helped me with each step of the process, I couldn’t have done it without him. The encouragement I also received from local small businesses owners and the City of Schenectady was overwhelming. No matter who I looked to, I was always met with sincere approval and assistance.”

Capital Region artist Shelley Burgio also displayed her work at the Clinton Street Mercantile before curating her space within the Jay St. Collective.

“I resided at the Clinton Street Mercantile for nearly a year and a half before it closed. In addition to selling my artwork I am also an elite retailer of the Dixie Belle Paint Company, so a physical storefront is imperative,” Burgio said. “I was so grateful that Erin opened this location and created a community of artists right here in the store.”

Eckler said success for the showcased artists goes hand-in-hand with the success of her business strategy as a whole.

Artist and Union College graduate Rachel McNeil is already finding Eckler’s business model beneficial.

“I met Erin at Clinton Street and she was so warm and welcoming. The way she brings artists together truly builds your confidence as a creator. I was having some trouble trying to figure out the best way to set up my display. Within moments of voicing my concerns, the other artists came and offered their help. It was amazing, there really is a strong sense of community here,” said McNeil.

The Jay St. Collective does not currently have an online shop, though the store is open five days a week. The store is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m to 4.p.m.  and Sunday 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

“Right now we want customers to visit the store in person. The in-store experience is one that we have worked hard to create, and it allows for great customer relations,” said Eckler.

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Categories: Schenectady County

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