Jenny Bartell plans a Dec. 1 opening for Community Merchants, a store in downtown La Grande providing retail opportunities for local artists, craft workers, produce growers and others. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH - The Observer
Another venue for the sale of locally produced goods has popped up in La Grande, with Jenny Bartell set to open a store downtown called Community Merchants.
Last week, Bartell signed the lease on the ground floor space in the building at 1019 Adams Ave., space occupied during the recent election season by the Union County Republicans.
With the elections over and done, Bartell, of Imbler, is converting the two rooms into a consignment store. She said she wants to help connect shoppers with the people who make, build and grow things in the Grande Ronde Valley and surrounding region.
“It’s for anything local, food, products, manufactured items, art and books. I see a need for making it easier for people to buy and sell their products locally,” Bartell said.
Bartell grew up on a small ranch in Imbler and graduated from Imbler High School in 2005. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Eastern Oregon University, then a master’s degree in animal science from Oregon State University. She lives with her family in Imbler now.
She said her idea for a consignment store showcasing local products has been in the works for a long time. Earlier this fall she looked at a building and was ready to lease it, but the deal fell through. That turned out to be a good thing, because she likes the location at Adams Avenue and Chestnut Street better.
“I wanted it to be on Adams. It’s right where I needed it to be, and I kind of fell into it,” she said.
Bartell has been lining up vendors, with some success. She said about 20 have shown interest so far, and she added that she plans to be open
“I wanted to be open for the Christmas rush so people can buy and sell,” she said.
Bartell said that in the beginning she plans to mainly use the front portion of the store to display arts and crafts items. She also said she is offering some advertising display space for vendors who may not feel ready to consign items but want to get the word out about their products and services. She added that she has plans to set aside an area in the store will be set aside for local talent to demonstrate techniques.
She said that toward springtime she plans to expand, installing coolers and refrigerators in the back for locally grown meat, fruits and vegetables. She said she thinks that part of the operation will help fill an important need.
“I know from growing up on a ranch how hard it is to let people know how they can get their hands on grass-fed beef,” she said.
Bartell’s new business isn’t the only one in town devoted to local entrepreneurs. The Blue Turtle Gallery on Adams downtown showcases the works of local artists, and the La Grande Farmer’s Market, open two days a week May-October in Max Square, gives people the chance to buy locally grown meat, vegetables, arts and crafts, and more.
Soon to open is The Marketplace, an indoor mall at Fourth Street and Washington Avenue offering retail space and business education opportunities for local small businesses. Bartell originally was going to call her store the Community Marketplace, but changed the name to avoid conflict with The Marketplace.
Bartell said she wants to work with all those places to add to the success of local entrepreneurs.
“I don’t want to compete. I hope to work together and promote each other,” she said.
For more information about Community Merchants, contact Bartell at 541-975-3555.