NEWAYGO, Mich. — When Katie DeVries was growing up, her family passed through Newaygo on their way Up North. These days, she owns Katie & Company in downtown Newaygo and likes to brainstorm ways to get people to stop.
The Katie & Company shop is just the most recent stop for DeVries, who began 2019 selling her art by traveling to shows and selling at “pop-ups.”
“This started from doing pop-up events in my front yard in Allendale,” DeVries notes. “I did over 40 shows. I traveled to Chicago, Indiana, Illinois, and all over Michigan.”
And you know the next event in this story: the pandemic shutdown.
“So, I started just supporting other small businesses, women entrepreneurs, and that kind of sparked doing the vendor group and doing the pop-up events in Allendale.”
While DeVries was working on a sense of community among artists, it worked to her advantage in finding her next move.
“We have to reinvent ourselves. We have to switch gears and find other ways. And what I have found is that the more you give out to other people, the more it comes back to you.” And it came back to her through an artist who had space in Newaygo. That space became Katie & Company.
The shop not only features her work under the Out of the Barn brand but the the work of up to 60 other artists.
“To me, it's all about community over competition. I don't feel that there's any competition,” she says. “We might make things that are similar, but it's all about supporting each other.”
“I make the wall art out of reclaimed wood. That's the Out of the Barn brand,” DeVries explains. “(The) other artists and makers here ... make everything from turned wood, we've got bowls and mushrooms. And then we've got pillows, earrings, we've got tons of different kinds of earrings. We've got painters and photographers, there's just so many things to see here.”
The commitment to community for DeVries goes beyond the artists. There’s the town, and there are the customers.
“I've talked to somebody at the city. And we've kind of like brainstormed different ideas on ways to bring more people in and just help continue to support each other.”
“I build a relationship with my customers, that they're not just customers, they’re friends.”
Winter is a quiet time in Newaygo. But DeVries is looking ahead.
“We opened October 23 last year … We hit the Christmas season just in time. And now this is really slow season for retail. But I can't wait until the summertime and things pick up.”
With the growth of downtown Newaygo, there’s a chance that people will be stopping instead of driving through town.