Finding unique ways to attract new customers to your offline business can be a challenge, leading many small businesses to use traditional marketing tactics to raise awareness of a retail space. We share some insight from a local aftcra artist, Rachael Brooke Winkley of Salvaged Studio & Gallery, who has used alternative marketing methods to develop a loyal following within the local community.
Rachael launched Salvaged Studio & Gallery in April of 2013 to sell both her up-cycled creations as well as promote other local artists. The mission of her organization is to create unique cultural experiences in the Milwaukee area, and make her gallery the location to host them. As Rachael prepares to celebrate the first anniversary of Salvaged Studio’s opening, she reflects on the key driver to raise awareness of her shop within the community that also coincided with her company’s mission: hosting, and participating in, local special events.
Launching Strategically every spring, local businesses in Milwaukee’s West Vliet Street area partner together for the “Westside Artwalk”; a highly anticipated neighborhood event promoting local artists. Rachael planned Salvaged Studio & Gallery’s grand opening the weekend of the “Westside Artwalk”.
By strategically planning her launch event, Rachael not only gained exposure to local community members that were not aware of her shop, but also individuals who came from out of town for the event. Residents of the community were enthused to see a formerly vacant building revitalized by a fresh, local business featuring creative artwork. As a new shop owner, Rachael couldn’t have asked for better local – and free – publicity. Hosting Niche Events Salvaged Studio features Rachael’s up-cycled creations and work of several local artists who use reclaimed or unconventional materials. Knowing that this is a niche space, Rachael planned out Featured Artist Shows during the summer and fall, which highlighted artwork specific to her niche. Each “Featured Artist Show” lasted for two months, with an introductory artist reception to launch the exhibit.
Rachael’s most successful Featured Artist Show was Exploded Library: Book Sculptures of Betsy Birkey, which featured Betsy Birkey’s folded page book sculptures. The promotion of Betsy Birkey’s event gained local media attention and praise, which benefited both Rachael’s Studio and Betsy Birkey’s artwork. Partnering with Other Local Organizations Rachael wanted to develop an event specific to the art of making, so she partnered with two other local art studios to host a two-day event coinciding with “American Craft Week”, a national event which celebrates the work of fine crafts made in America. The weekend was a huge success featuring open studio tours, demonstrations from guest artists, and an outdoor screening of “Craft in America”, a series on PBS. By hosting this event, Rachael created an annual function that local residents will look forward to attending, as well as gaining interest from other local shops for sponsorship and vendor opportunities. Events similar to this solidify her commitment to the neighborhood and it’s future growth and vitality. Special events not only help raise awareness of an offline store, but they assist other marketing strategies for your organization.
Rachael regularly collects email addresses from new shoppers and browsers. This way Rachael can continuously keep her fans engaged, whether it be shop specials (both online and offline), upcoming sponsored events, or local social gatherings (which Salvaged Studio is a participant). You can see more of Rachael’s work, and learn more about her studio, at the links below.
Salvaged Studio & Gallery aftcra shop, Salvaged Studio Website, Facebook
Erica Riegelman is the co-founder and president of aftcra.
aftcra is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell handmade goods made in America.