At least three artisan studios have set up shop on Business Loop 70 since the commercial district has focused on expanding the artisan industry in Columbia.

The WishFlour has found a space in the CoMo Cooks Shared Kitchen at Mizzou North. CoMo Grow Supply, a hydroponics equipment supplier, and a maker’s collection created by Michele Batye, owner and president of Flooring America, can also be found on Business Loop 70.

The new artisan zoning on the Business Loop was designed to help this kind of business grow, take part in shared spaces and have access to more tools and equipment.

In addition to the shared kitchen in Mizzou North, other spaces include Vidwest Studio Center, a community place for those in visual production. The Vidwest team organizes events, educates people in workshops about media skills and provides studio space and equipment to makers.

A shared space coming soon is MACCLab, which will supply tools and equipment to makers and entrepreneurs.

The Loop is part of a maker-space movement across the country to revitalize underperforming areas of cities by welcoming small-scale production of arts, crafts or culinary goods.

Artisans are also able to share spaces and tools, and all products are to be made and sold on the premises.

“What I think is absolutely amazing about our community is that we already have this hidden economy of makers,” said Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Community Improvement District. “There are people who are making and doing and selling things already. We’re just not talking about it.”

These spaces also help pave the way for those in the artisan industry to expand out of shared spaces into larger spaces of their own.

“There isn’t a lot of real estate available on The Loop, so shared spaces makes sense for that,” said Michelle Batye, the president and owner of Flooring America as well as a commission member of The Loop. “It also makes it affordable for the artisans, since many of them are women and minorities.”

To assist these businesses, the Loop has partners to help with branding, creating a website or setting up a maker’s directory and more. The Loop partnered with the Missouri Women’s Business Center, for example, to provide free business coaching to help the artisans secure permits, create business plans and more.

“This isn’t something that we can do alone,” Gartner said. “This is something that everyone in the community is so excited about coming together to make happen.”

WishFlour Bakery

Marcey Mertens, the owner of WishFlour Bakery, had long been told she should open a bakery.

For a period of time, she was running her bakery from “a table with a mixer on it in the back room of her house.” Before that, she would bake chocolate cakes with her mom.

Mertens joined the CoMo Cooks Shared Kitchen space at Mizzou North in May. She now spends her time there baking and catering her baked goods including biscuits, bread, doughnuts, brownies, custom cookies and cakes.

Her catering operation serves weddings, tailgate parties, picnics, office events, anniversaries, reveals, showers and graduations. Mertens will also ship her baked goods as gifts.

Like Mertens, small makers and business can apply for a membership to join the CoMo Cooks Shared Kitchen.

“I think we have a really fun community there with all the people that are participating there, we really support each other,” Mertens said.

CoMo Grow Supply

Heather King poses in her store

Heather King poses in her store, CoMo Grow Supply, on Wednesday in Columbia. King co-owns the store with her husband.

CoMo Grow Supply is a family-owned business at 20 Business Loop 70 E. that helps people learn how to garden while keeping it fun. The business, which is run by Heather King and her husband, also sells all different kinds of dirts and soils.

Before the pandemic, the business offered programs where children could paint a pot, for example, and plant something in it to watch it grow.

Rows of succulents soak in the sun

Rows of succulents soak in the sun Wednesday at CoMo Grow Supply in Columbia. King’s store sells different types of soil and hydroponics meant for maintaining the care of growing plants. 

King explained that people will also come in to buy succulents for either school projects or supplies for their own businesses.

“It has really inspired people to get creative and to kind of dive into their own ability as a maker,” she said.

The Kings now have plans to restart their plant workshops.

“Mostly our focus here is and a lot of what we do is education and just like teaching people how to grow anything at home,” King said.

Bags of liquid culture mushrooms reside in a wood basket

Bags of liquid culture mushrooms reside in a wood basket Wednesday at CoMo Grow Supply in Columbia. Piopinno is a type of Agrocybe aegerita mushroom from Italy.

Maker’s Collection inside Flooring America

Michele Batye poses inside of her shop

Michele Batye poses inside of her shop Tuesday in Columbia. Batye is the owner and president of Dave Griggs’ Flooring America.

A Chewable Charm teether sits on a shelf

A Chewable Charm teether sits on a shelf Tuesday in Columbia. Other items include candles, eco-friendly multi-purpose cleaner and handmade dolls.

Michelle Batye is the owner of Flooring America, and during the pandemic she started her Maker’s Collection. She works with women around the country who send her their works, which she sells at the store.

The women might be candle makers from Kansas City or doll makers from Chicago, and Batye incorporates their products into her company. It is a way to celebrate women, and a plan she will continue to embrace and grow.

“Our current business model hasn’t really changed, but I think it does help with possible future collaborations,” Batye said.

Some artisan goods lie on a shelf

Some artisan goods lie on a shelf in Columbia. The items on the shelves come from all over the country with some as local as Kansas City to all the way in Seattle.

Batye said she has visited shared spaces in the past and “just fell in love with them.”