Ashland Artisan Emporium filling with artists' work

A steady stream of artists and others looking to sell unique items passed by the front counter of the Ashland Artisan Emporium earlier this week, adding their names to a waiting list of people hoping to have booths inside the store that once housed DJ's Video.

Mike Rydbom, who owns the building and the rest of the Ashland Shopping Center complex, had 90 booths built in the 17,000-square-foot building — taking up about half the space inside.

"We filled all those in eight days," he said.

Carpenters are coming back this week to build more, bringing the total number of vendor spaces to 184. The waiting list for the new booths is 20 to 30 people deep, Rydbom said on Tuesday.

Curious customers already are coming into the emporium, which opened on Nov. 1.

Lease terms range from month-to-month to six-month options. Booth prices vary from $56 to $240 monthly, depending on booth size and lease length. Wall space rents for 50 cents to $1.50 per foot based on lease length. Vendors pay a 15 percent commission on sales.

Vendors don't have to "babysit" their booths — all sales are handled at the front counter — and they don't have to take a shift working at the emporium.

With the smell of fresh paint in the air, Medford artist Thomas Hampton talked to Rydbom about setting up a booth to sell his art, and perhaps some family antiques.

"You get a check every month," Rydbom explained. "After setting up, you don't have to do anything but keep coming back for restocking."

Vendors can track their daily sales via the Internet, Rydbom said.

Hampton said he thinks the emporium is a great idea.

"I think it's an open opportunity for a lot of people who want to do a side hobby," Hampton said.

Ashland resident Zahara Solomon was setting up her booth this week, creating a richly textured display of wall hangings, charms and other items that she has brought back from her travels to Morocco, Bali, Israel, Turkey and India.

"I always wanted to open a store. I don't have the money right now to invest in a store in this economy. This is smaller. This is affordable. This is easy. It's good for them, too," Solomon said of Rydbom and his family members who are running the emporium.

She said she doubts the family would have had much luck getting a big retailer to take the space that was vacated by DJ's Video earlier this fall.

Once touted as the "largest video store in Oregon," DJ's moved out of the grocery store-sized space into a smaller building at 258 A St., across from Ace Hardware.

Founded in 1984, the video rental store was hard hit by competition from national companies that offer mail order, Internet and on-demand movies.

Solomon, who also works in a doctor's office, sees the emporium as an incubator for entrepreneurs. She'll be able to see what sells well at her booth of imported items, and then perhaps someday open a store of her own.

"It's like dipping my toes in the water," she said.

Ashland resident Suzanne Seiber, who was holding a level as her friend Kathleen Mahoney used a drill to attach a shelf at their booth, plans to sell Depression glass. Mahoney makes and sells soft-sculpture dolls.

"I'm really excited about it," said Mahoney, who also lives in Ashland. "It's a great location. I think this shopping center has enough traffic."

"It's incredible how big it is in here," Seiber added. "Already the front half is full."

Ashland resident Carol Stella browsed the booths and walls, which held paintings, photographs, sculptures, cards, jewelry, antiques, CDs, painted furniture, soaps and baby, child and adult clothing. Hand-made food items ranged from freshly baked bread to pumpkin spice syrup.

Stella stopped in front of a wall filled with vintage women's hats.

"This is taking me back to my momma's love and dress-up time. It's taking me back to a time of elegance," she said, noting that other items in the emporium reminded her of her travels to Italy and her grandfather, a Scottish sculptor who worked on projects for Andrew Carnegie.

Emporium owner Michelle Christian, Rydbom's daughter, said she wants the emporium to be a destination marketplace where residents and tourists can visit and mingle as well as shop.

"You can find something without going to Medford or going to a mall. You can find something that was made by your neighbor," she said.

Christian said the emporium will become a member of the Ashland Gallery Association and participate in First Friday art walks, where art businesses keep their doors open into the evening hours the first Friday of each month.

The emporium will have a grand opening celebration with live music, food and special promotions from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20.

Emporium hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The store phone number is 541-708-0577. Potential vendors can call 541-840-1693.

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Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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