Pack Elephant + The Marketplace at Studio Park = opportunity for local makers

The Marketplace at Studio Park, an endeavor of Pack Elephant, offers products representing more than 30 local independent makers. The goal is to elevate local and diverse makers by telling their stories, selling their wares, and giving customers a gift-ready, “build your own box” that combines products from one or several of its featured artisans. Diverse means gift options, workshops, and events created by women, makers of color, veterans, and artisans identifying as LGBTQ.

The Marketplace opened on Dec. 11, in time to capture 2020 holiday sales. Currently open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday, its 3,000 square feet of space allow safely social distanced shopping. Online shopping, delivery, and curbside pick-up are also available.
Ivana RiveraTwo of its makers, Ivana Rivera and Shannon Cohen, report those sales were a great success. Rivera owns Koki Life, an herbal, vegan skin care line that she handcrafts herself using herbs and flowers growing on her Ionia County homestead.

“I grow lavender, sage, clary sage, marigolds, comfrey, and wild roses. I try to create a beautiful skin care concoction,” Rivera says. “My business took a massive hit due to COVID. Thankfully, working with Pack Elephant during the holidays changed that."

Both women credit Winsome Kirton, founder and CEO of Pack Elephant, with making their goods more available to Grand Rapids’ residents and visitors.

“I actually met Winsome about two years ago. We hit it off right away. I loved her passion, her goals, and her intention of featuring local entrepreneurs [businesses that] were women-owned, minority-owned, and had a mission-driven purpose,” Rivera says. “We get to invest in the wellbeing of our communities together. We are small businesses working together to make a change.”

“Winsome’s magic is creating this space,” adds Cohen. “Each maker contributes their brand experience. She provides that stable, brick-and-mortar marketplace atmosphere for local artisans. It’s the perfect blend.”

Cohen, a blogger, motivational speaker, life coach, podcaster, and author of "Tough Skin, Soft Heart," sells her own line of books, stickers, and greeting cards that reinforce her messages that champion women in the workplace and preach self-care as an adjunct to career success.

“Winsome’s vision provides that sense of 'stronger together.' Look at the Local First movement and the Shop Local movement and what has happened with big box retailers,” Cohen says. “Some people would never find or learn about these products any other way. Now when they are out dining, at a movie or a concert in the [Studio C] piazza, there’s that awareness. Grand Rapids is a growing travel destination hub. Being in a space like Studio Park is a great space to be in.”

Tim Kelly, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. agrees. “We are thrilled to welcome The Marketplace and Pack Elephant to downtown,” he says. “This creative initiative at Studio Park will provide a highly visible platform for local entrepreneurs, promote the growth of small businesses at a critical time for our economy, and continue to diversify the mix of retail offerings in downtown.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos Courtesy Pack Elephant, Ivana Rivera, and Shannon Cohen


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