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Your Secret Source for All Things Local in Santa Rosa

Made Local Marketplace in Santa Rosa

If I let you in on a secret, will you promise to tell everyone you know?

Here’s how it works: First, head for downtown Santa Rosa’s 4th Street. You know, the one with all the historic storefronts and redwood trees and cute bistros. Then, just before you get to 4th, make a quick turn and land yourself on 5th Street instead. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by offices and parking lots instead of shops.

I promise I’m not leading you astray – just one block off the beaten path. That’s where you’ll find the Made Local Marketplace, a local secret that it’s high time someone spilled. (See map here.)

“Because we’re on 5th Street instead of (the more tourist-trodden) 4th Street or Railroad Square, the people who show up here tend to be return customers from the local community,” said store manager Adriann Saslow. “It’s the people who know us and love us and keep coming back.”

The name “Made Local Marketplace” is pretty self-explanatory: Every item in the store is made in Sonoma County by a local artisan or craftsperson, and each sale helps support the local economy.

Nothing is shipped in from parts unknown; nothing’s being manufactured in bulk; none of the store’s profits get cycled back to some corporate headquarters. Instead, everything you’ll find here, from the bamboo dishtowels to the Asian-pear-blackberry-and-lavender preserves, is a little piece of the real Sonoma County that you can take home with you.

And the purchase you make helps support real Sonoma County creators.

The Made Local Marketplace stands out in Sonoma County because it’s almost peerless. It’s not a gift shop, per say, though you’d see a lot of smiles on birthdays and Christmases if you treated it like one. It’s not a fine art gallery, though the photographs and mixed-media pieces hanging from the walls might suggest otherwise.

Instead, founder Kelley Rajala said, the Marketplace is more of a “local general store.” It carries the work of 330 homegrown artists and artisans, aiming for diversity, beauty and, above all, functionality in its offerings.

That means that just about everything inside the Marketplace – the books on progressive business models by local authors, the children’s clothing, the light switch covers painted with playful robots, the super-soft pillow cases, the lightly scented laundry soap – is stuff you’ll actually use. As long as you don’t deem it too beautiful to put to work, that is.

“This isn’t just stuff from Target,” said Saslow, who came to the Marketplace as its 241st local artist before becoming the store’s manager. “There aren’t six of something on a shelf – there’s one of something on the shelf, and if you want that one, that’s it.”

I quickly see what she means: A basket of hand-sewn fleece eye masks catches my attention and, in thumbing through them, I notice each is unique, stitched together in a different colorful print, a cute fox or a flower or a mustache patched onto the front like a postage stamp.

The same goes for a line of little felted mermaid dolls: Each looks about as similar to its neighbor as Ariel looks to Daryl Hannah. Even the hula-hoops on display out front are one of a kind.

But my favorite thing about the Made Local Marketplace is how personal the entire shopping experience feels. Next to many of the items on display, you’ll notice a Polaroid and a haiku-length bio of the Sebastopol resident who molded your beeswax candles or the Cloverdale artist who painted your new decorative tile.

Lots of the artists who sell their work at the Marketplace also take shifts working behind the counter, so you may even get to meet a local artist face-to-face.

Inside, the Made Local Marketplace really feels like a little community – and it’s a great place for Sonoma County visitors to get to know ours.

Made Local Marketplace: 531 5th St. (between Mendocino and B), Santa Rosa, 707-583-7667

Find more info on shopping and things to do in Sonoma County.

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