Monday, October 10, 2016

Locavore Mercantile Cooperative Opens on Steamboat Island

Above: Beth Mathews of Olympia will open a new, local cooperative for artists called Locavore Mercantile on Steamboat Island. Her grand opening is on Saturday.

By Janine Gates

A new local business will open on Steamboat Island just in time for holiday gift giving, and if all goes well, will continue to stay open in 2017.

Beth Mathews has opened a “pop-up” cooperative, Locavore Mercantile, featuring over 20 artists, located at the Steamboat Island exit just off Highway 101, at Steamboat Square, 6541 Sexton Drive NW, Olympia.

The cooperative features a local Steamboat Island business, Saucy Goodness Company, which makes all-natural hot and spicy chutney and related condiments, metal art by Dan and Landi Dial of Shelton, and many more multi-media artists who use clay, photography, paper, glass, textiles, and more to express their creativity.

Located between Subway and Flowers by Kristil, the shop will officially open on Saturday, October 15, from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Regular hours will be 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

For $150, juried artists joined the cooperative for three months. The money pays for rent, utilities, and basic needs.

“I'm still getting a few more vendors in here, so things will fill up a little more this week,” said Mathews, who lives on Steamboat Island, during a tour of the shop on Monday.

Above: Bee Happy Organics of Tumwater has a wide selection of delicious smelling soaps, such as Rosemary Mint, Lemon Lavender, and Yippie Hippie. 

During the tour, jewelry artist Chris Kaitlyn of Olympia popped in to arrange and take pictures of her display.

A former art teacher in Alaska, and science teacher and school counselor in Washington, Kaitlyn described her jewelry as rustic bohemian. She’s looking forward to the grand opening.

“Beth’s done a fabulous job of setting this up! It’s come a long way since last week!” Kaitlyn said enthusiastically, admiring the shop and its new turquoise wall color.

Mathews, an archaeologist in cultural resource management, recently decided to take the plunge - she quit her job, and decided to focus solely on her art and form the cooperative. 

Her homemade jewelry and all-natural body care products and business, Nature Nouveau, is inspired by her scientific training. She has had a booth at the West Olympia Farmers' Market, Love Our Local Fest, and other venues throughout the region.

“About seven years ago, I started using art as a way to balance really intensely dry, scientific work. It became hard to shut down the desire to create things, and eventually, art became my part time job. People say, 'Don't quit your day job,' in the art world a lot, but it turned out that art was more stable than doing contract work in the cultural resource management industry,” laughed Mathews.

“It's always been funny to me that we cry “buy local, local, local,” but art shows, festivals, events, and markets are so temporary and time consuming to set up. I really was thinking, ‘This has to be easier! Can't we all just set up inside somewhere?’ The traditional shop idea seemed like such a novel idea after I'd been moving things around from market to market. And we have so many ultra-local, amazing creators near the shop. It's been really cool to see people coming together,” said Mathews.

As for after the holidays, Mathews says she would like to see the cooperative become permanent. Mathews is optimistic and passionate about the shop’s success. 

“We have a lot of artists who are interested in showing their work here, too many to fit, and a ton of local support, but our success depends on how responsive customers are to this location and what we have to offer as a group of artisans and artists. The reception so far has been really positive, so it seems it will be a joyous shopping season for local buyers and makers,” says Mathews.

Not only is the Steamboat Island area seeing significant new construction with three new 3,500 square foot buildings for retail, services, and office space, over 5,000 people live in the Steamboat Island community and an estimated 30,000 cars drive past Steamboat Square every week.

“We’re a tight community, and I expect there will be a lot of curiosity and word of mouth about the new shop. This project is about a community joining together to make something happen,” said Mathews.

Above: Local artist Ainsley Walden of Go Fish Raku creates sockeye salmon and driftwood art, holiday ornaments, wall art, and magnets.

For more information about Locavore Mercantile, go to or