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WATCH NOW: Creative woman-owned collective in Carytown showcases 15 artists
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WATCH NOW: Creative woman-owned collective in Carytown showcases 15 artists

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Allison Smith-Mackey has opened The Confetti Market in Carytown as a collective for 15 women-owned businesses.

As an artist, Richmonder Allison Smith-Mackey recalled how working the market scene both in Richmond and elsewhere wasn’t always easy.

Logistics, limited customer access and other challenges left her longing for a storefront of her own to sell her brand of leather goods and unique curated items like handmade bags and textiles from around the world as well as sparkly jewelry sets and headbands made right here in Richmond.

This fall, she got her wish.

Smith-Mackey opened The Confetti Market at 3422 W. Cary St. in Carytown on Sept. 10 to showcase the craftsmanship and creativity of products from as many as 15 women-owned businesses, including her own business, Pop of Confetti.

On a recent Friday, Smith-Mackey walked the store, past vibrant displays of paintings and homemade pottery, environmentally-friendly handbags, colorful resin artwork, cuddly knitted stuffed animals, scented candles and more. On the floor, bits of rainbow confetti lingered from a previous holiday event.

A New York City native, Smith-Mackey and her husband moved to Virginia 12 years ago after they both lost jobs in finance during the recession.

She’s always been creative, she said, and would often ask furniture stores for leftover leather scraps, with which she’d make earrings or wallets or bookmarks. She started selling her items — and more recently, curated items — at local markets in 2017.

“It’s very difficult to get into stores, and it’s very difficult to do the market grind,” Smith-Mackey said. “You can have the most amazing product, and it’s just hard to get it out there.”

She said she had the idea for a collective for a few years and that when space opened up in what was the former Carytown Collective, she jumped at the chance. The Carytown Collective operated for a couple of years with local independent businesses sharing the space and able to rent space for as little as three months.

The storefront space was bigger than what she needed for her own business — but perfect for her idea for a collection of different women artist vendors.

The former space’s interior was a bit dark for her tastes, she said, so she immediately painted the walls in light, bright hues that reflect the bubbly, colorful ambiance she envisioned for the store.

Smith-Mackey also got to work reaching out to artists she had met at markets. She said it didn’t take long to find enough people to fill her store, which is two floors. The ground floor showcases vendors’ items, while her items are upstairs.

She wants it that way, because oftentimes when vendors pay to be displayed in someone else’s store, “you’re in the back,” Smith-Mackey said. “I wanted [The Confetti Market] to be the complete opposite.”

Smith-Mackey said she offers a variety of contracts for vendors that differ in length and display locations throughout the store. She said they can choose whichever suits their needs and budgets.

The market means that “seven days a week, [vendors] can access customers versus at a market, which gives you a finite amount of time to set up and showcase to whomever shows up,” she said.

The Confetti Market features gifts of all kinds — not to mention there’s a self-service confetti bar for anyone needing confetti products for parties and special events.

Bea Topkis is a Chesterfield County-based vendor who sells purses and tote bags made from recycled plastic bottles. She said working with Smith-Mackey “is one of the best blessings I had this year” because the shop helped introduce her brand, Unas Bolsas, to Richmond.

“Being part of the Confetti collective feels like a sisterhood to me — women supporting other women to be successful,” she said.

Albree Reynolds owns Little May Co. in which she sells decorated glass cups, coffee mugs and shirts. She said she’s always dreamed of selling directly to customers in a local store.

The Confetti Market “helped me and many other women make that dream a reality,” Reynolds said. “The opportunity to sell my art locally alongside several very strong, inspiring and creative women has been incredibly rewarding.”

Smith-Mackey said the community’s response has been “phenomenal.” She said she’s been lucky enough to travel the world and, wherever she goes, “my favorite thing when I travel is a market — I feel that’s where you get the pulse of the city or the region.”

With The Confetti Market, she said, “it’s what I’ve tried to recreate.”

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