Wholly Craft opened in 2005 next to the space it currently occupies at 3169 N. High St. in Clintonville.
Back then, the shop’s owner, Olivera Bratich, knew several people who were making unique items but didn’t have a place to sell them. Being a community organizer at heart (her words), she jumped at the opportunity to help bring together the handmade community here in Columbus and provide a showcase for handmade goods being produced across the country.
“The previous year, I had helped organize Ladyfest Ohio, which was a DIY, grassroots women’s arts festival, and I kind of fell in love with the spirit and accessibility of Columbus,” she said. “Instead of moving away after grad school, I stuck around and opened Wholly Craft.”
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The first retail space was tiny −300-square feet− and Bratich didn’t have much money to put into it.
“I also had no idea what I was doing running a business,” she said. “So the longevity of the store is really a testament to the supportive community we live in and the talented artists we work with.”
Today, Wholly Craft occupies a 1,000-square-foot space and features a variety of merchandise −from clothing and jewelry to paper goods and home decor− from more than 200 vendors, 80 of whom are based in Central Ohio.
“The crazy amount of creative expression and production packed into one place is what gives the store its flavor,” she said.
Wholly Craft’s “flavor” is especially beloved by Columbus Underground readers; they voted it “Best Specialty Store of 2011.”
“I used to say that 90 percent of our customers are women, but that’s totally not true anymore,” she said. “Because we’ve built a reputation as a great place for gifts, we get all sorts of folks through the door looking for something special. And some of my favorite customers are folks who just stop in regularly for a dose of fun, to check out what is new in the store and find a good laugh.”
Come this summer, shoppers will have even more merch to comb through. Bratich is adding The Supply Closet, a pay-as-you-wish recycled craft supply resource.
“Crafters often have mountains of materials that they’ll never actually get to use, and this is a way to get it into the hands of other crafters,” she said. “Years ago, we hosted a supply swap and while plenty of goods were swapped, even more was left behind. There are definitely crafters out there who could use those supplies, so this is a way to make those connections. We’ll accept donations, sort and merchandise the supplies, and everything will be available on a pay-as-you-wish basis− no set prices.”
Bratich is modeling The Supply Closet after The Upcycle Exchange in St. Louis. The store’s owner visited Columbus last summer for the Midwest Craft Caucus and told Bratich about her desire to spread the concept to other cities.
“It’s a great fit for what we already do and I think it’s a nice resource to have in the community,” Bratich said. “I hate sending people out to a major craft store eight miles away to pick up a piece of felt.”
Wholly Craft will begin taking donations for The Supply Closet this spring; it is slated to open in June.
Photos by Adam Slane Photography.