While Stacy Martinez lived in Georgia for eight years, away from her native New Orleans, her therapy became building items she hoped to sell. The problem was finding a respectable retailer for her products.
She and her husband found plenty of antique malls, but there were only a couple that could offer her a small booth, and they weren’t a great fit. They were either too flea market-like or weren’t quite contemporary or industrial enough for her, and so she was left wanting until she had the opportunity to open her own multivendor store when she returned to New Orleans.
After two years of hard work and toil, Zèle Artisans Market, 2841 Magazine St., held its grand opening earlier this month to provide that opportunity to New Orleans and its local artists.
Pronounced “zell,” the market’s name is French for zeal, reflecting the passion Martinez has for her idea.
“It’s really great because we serve as an incubator to so many different artists to get their brand out there,” Martinez said. “People who want to open a store but aren’t quite ready to take that financial plunge and time commitment can try Zèle out and see how their product is received by the general public.”
The new building that Zèle calls home is approximately 4,000 square feet and is inhabited by more than 70 local artists, though they have the room to fit 100, Martinez said. Prices range from as low as $5 to $30,000.
What Zèle offers artists is a temperature-controlled space to display their wares within their own booths, without having to be there, as the store’s employees handle sales.
The artists pay a monthly rental fee for their booths and provide the market a 10 percent commission on sales.
“We don’t want to create any competition in the store because my job is basically as the landlord, so we want to keep the complaints to a minimum and keep sales for the individual artist as high as they can possibly be,” Martinez said.
“Our criteria are that you are contemporary and you try to recycle items. And we don’t repeat what we already have in the store.”
For local artist and Zèle renter Becci Edwards, the new art market’s consideration and attention to detail functioned as both a lifesaver and an inspiration.
Edwards is a popular New Orleans artist known for her paint, clay and multimedia work and for a poster for the King Biscuit Blues Festival, in Helena, Arkansas, which she has made for the past two years.
Though she’s a five-year veteran of selling art in Jackson Square, a recent breast cancer diagnosis changed her course.
“(Zèle Market) has been a real blessing for me through all of this because I have to replenish my stock and everything,” Edwards said, “but there is someone there to handle everything for me, and I can check my sales online to see what I sold.”
Martinez and Edwards are both very excited by the prospect of the new art market.
“If you’re not coming out, you’re missing quality handcrafted unique creations that they won’t find elsewhere,” Martinez said. “We’re a local business, and every dollar spent in the store goes to locals, so it helps to boost the community, but the biggest thing for consumers is that you can find a gift for anyone there.”