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Downtown: Concord Handmade founder crafts a new business venture with mobile shop

  • Alison Murphy operates a portable boutique out of a 1974 Coachman Cadet camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014. Murphy owns Concord Handmade, which sells items she makes as well as other's wares.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

    Alison Murphy operates a portable boutique out of a 1974 Coachman Cadet camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014. Murphy owns Concord Handmade, which sells items she makes as well as other's wares.

    (WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

  • Deb Lewis, right, and Corey Gilbert, both of Concord, visit the Concord Handmade camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

    Deb Lewis, right, and Corey Gilbert, both of Concord, visit the Concord Handmade camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014.

    (WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

  • Skirts made by Alison Murphy hang inside a portable boutique made from a 1974 Coachman Cadet camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014. Murphy owns Concord Handmade, which sells items she makes as well as other's wares.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

    Skirts made by Alison Murphy hang inside a portable boutique made from a 1974 Coachman Cadet camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014. Murphy owns Concord Handmade, which sells items she makes as well as other's wares.

    (WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

  • Alison Murphy operates a portable boutique out of a 1974 Coachman Cadet camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014. Murphy owns Concord Handmade, which sells items she makes as well as other's wares.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)
  • Deb Lewis, right, and Corey Gilbert, both of Concord, visit the Concord Handmade camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)
  • Skirts made by Alison Murphy hang inside a portable boutique made from a 1974 Coachman Cadet camper at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014. Murphy owns Concord Handmade, which sells items she makes as well as other's wares.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

On the outside, the camper is a 1974 Coachman Cadet.

On the inside, not so much.

“This isn’t just the vehicle I bring to events,” owner Alison Murphy said. “I think a lot of people are surprised it looks like a little store inside.”

The camper is indeed a little store – the newly opened Concord Handmade mobile shop. Gone are the sink and the stove, replaced by a selection of delicate earrings and silk-screened T-shirts. The fridge and the heater made way for greeting cards and patterned skirts.

Wearing a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses and one of the leather bracelets she makes herself, 29-year-old Murphy stood in front of the camper at last week’s Market Days festival. She has operated the pop-up Concord Handmade shop during the holidays for the past three years. Murphy has always wanted to have her own shop, but she said she’s not ready for a year-round storefront. So she bought the camper on Craigslist and renovated it this spring with her dad.

As the mobile shop makes the rounds to the Concord Arts Market and other local events, Murphy is expanding her business in a fashion as creative as the crafts she sells.

“The idea of a pop-up shop is popular in bigger cities. . . . It’s kind of an offshoot of the food truck,” Murphy said.

The mobile shop is true to the mission of Concord Handmade’s holiday store. All of the products inside are created by New England artists.

“I think it’s important to buy things that matter and that have a story behind them,” Murphy said.

Murphy has her own story. While she was a college student, she took a semester off from school and began to make her own jewelry. Her first shot at selling her products was at a craft fair at an elementary school.

“I started creating,” she said.

She went back to school and finished her degree, but she never stopped creating. Now, she sells skirts and leather jewelry decorated with pieces of lace. (Her company is called Sunshine Derby in reference to her other hobby – roller derby.)

Those items are on sale in the Concord Handmade mobile shop, alongside products made by other New England artists.

“I look at it as a place to buy a gift for someone,” Murphy said.

Murphy pointed to work by the other artists she features. In one basket are quirky and colorful prints by Monkey Chow, created with what Murphy called “a great sense of humor.” On another rack are greeting cards by home-grown companies such as Morris & Essex. Light filters into the tiny camper through narrow windows, falling on scarves and small paintings for sale. A gray T-shirt with the words “Mama Bear” hangs by the door.

In lieu of a traditional storefront, this 14-foot-relic is a place where Murphy can complete “the cycle.”

“I know the people who made these things, and I connect with the people who buy them,” Murphy said.

So on the outside, the camper is a 1974 Coachman Cadet. But when a shopper stuck her head through the door to see the inside, she couldn’t contain her surprise.

“Nice little shop you have in here,” the woman said, already reaching for the rack of skirts.

The Concord Handmade mobile shop will be at the arts market Aug. 2, 9 and 16. For more information, visit the Concord Handmade Facebook page.

Seeing, sketching, socializing

On a little page in Bobbie Herron’s sketchbook, she had drawn a picture of a building and its drainage pipe. The brick is detailed, and the sky is painted behind the building in light watercolors. A little note at the bottom reads: “I could have sworn there was nothing to draw here!”

Finding those sketches around Concord was part of Herron’s inspiration to start Drawing Attention NH, a meet-up for sketchbook artists of all ages and abilities. She had heard about Urban Sketchers, an similar international group with chapters in major cities around the world, and she wanted to start a similar club in Concord. So on Saturday, she sat in Eagle Square with sketchbook and pen at the ready.

“It’s creating a social event out of something that is frequently done in isolation,” said Herron, 62.

The group will meet on the third Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. Artists can spread out and sketch, and then everyone will convene again for lunch at noon. About 13 people came to the first meeting in June.

“This isn’t a class,” she said. “This is just us hanging out together.”

Sue Anne Bottomley, 67, drove to Concord from New London to participate in this weekend’s meet-up. She was looking toward Main Street and sketching the view out of Eagle Square. Everyone can approach the sketching time differently, she said. Last month, the group ranged from retirees to a middle school girl, professional artists such as Bottomley to beginners.

“There’s no one way of doing this,” Bottomley said.

For more information about the next Concord meet-up, visit the Drawing Attention NH Facebook group.

“I have kind of a slogan I made up: ‘Anything that’s worth seeing is worth sketching,’ ” Herron said.

Collecting trash – and photos

The General Services Department is hosting a contest to find two photos that best represent Concord, and the two winning images will be printed across the sides of two new split-body trash and recycling trucks.

General services Director Chip Chesley said Casella, the city’s new trash and recycling vendor, has already designed one truck with a photo of the downtown clock tower on its side.

“I think the underlying interest is to engage the community in how we continue to manage our solid waste,” Chesley said.

To enter, email at least one original photo, your full name, phone number, address, and digital design to generalservices@concordnh.gov. Multiple entries are encouraged. All entries are due by 11:59 p.m. Aug. 15. The city has asked for entries that do not include the clock tower or the State House.

The official rules are available online on the General Services page at concordnh.gov.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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