The newest addition to the Nikiski Mall, nestled between Charlie’s Angels Pizza and De Lars gift shop, is a little consignment store called Localz. Started by longtime Nikiski resident Angel Stanton, Localz is meant to be a hub for locally made soaps, clothing, art and more. Stanton opened her business on April 5 of this year and has since grown her inventory to include products from dozens of local makers on the peninsula and across the state, including her own design company, AK Kreations. Stanton sat down with the Clarion last week to discuss her store and her story.
Clarion: What made you want to start this business?
Angel Stanton: So I graduated from Nikiski in ’04, I’m a local and I’ve been in sales most of my life. My sister passed away two years ago, and that’s when my whole life changed. I wanted to do something to honor her. So I started making things, at first just to distract my mind. Being a maker and having my stuff in other shops, I realized that this is what I want to do for people. The opportunity became available and we were like, all right, let’s do it! What should we call it? Should we name it Chere’s, after my sister? We thought about what she would want to do since she was all about being locally involved. We did this for her and for the people around here, to help awaken this town again. The mall is starting to come back to life and we wanted to be a part of that. Plus, there wasn’t anything quite like us out here.
Clarion: Now that you’re three months in, what do you think so far?
Stanton: After the first opening weekend, I cried. I just felt overwhelmed by all the local support. It was awesome. And that support still continues.
Clarion: So it was a good cry.
Stanton: Yes! A good cry. A happy cry. I just couldn’t have imagined a turnout that good.
Clarion: How many people showed up opening weekend?
Stanton: About 50 people that first weekend. And we didn’t really advertise it at all except on Facebook. I was surprised. I was expecting like 10 people to come in, and even if we got one person that would have been really cool. But a minute after opening, we had people bursting through the doors. Well, like five people, but still.
Clarion: How many local vendors do you work with?
Stanton: As far as Alaskan local artists, over 30. I would say at least a quarter of them are from Nikiski and Kenai, maybe more like 40%. And then we have a good portion from Anchorage, Eagle River, Chugiak, and the North Pole. Our little ceramic pots and wool dryer balls come from the North Pole.
Clarion: How do you find a new maker?
Stanton: Sometimes they’ll just walk in and say “Hey, I make this, are you interested?” And we’ll just go from there. I also go to local events, check out the Wednesday market and the Train Stop market and things like that.
Clarion: And what’s the business model like, do they sell their products to you?
Stanton: Some of them. One artist for example, I’ll buy some of her pieces wholesale and then resell them. I also have, like with the goat milk soap, a contract for consignment. So she’ll bring her products into the shop to keep the inventory stocked and I just keep 22% of the sales while she gets paid by the fifth of every month. I pay all the taxes and they get a check from my business account. No shop fee or anything.
Clarion: Are all of your products local? Whether in-state or on the Kenai specifically?
Stanton: About 90% are. When we first opened the business I wanted to fill up all the walls with art and we didn’t know enough local artists yet, so I brought some in. As we find more local artists, we’ll have less stuff imported. I’m hoping to be 100% local at some point, to stay true to the name and all.
Clarion: Why do you consider it important to sell local products and highlight local makers?
Stanton: With the way the economy has been and everything, it’s good to keep our money in our small town. Nikiski seemed like it was a dying town for a while, and now it seems like it’s finally reawakening. I wanted to be a part of that, give it some fun flavor and keep it local. I know that there are a lot of local makers out here and a lot of local talent. So I wanted to give them a place closer to home where they can put their work. And I’m from here, so Nikiski is just near and dear to my heart.
Clarion: How many local makers were you working with when you first started, and how much has it grown since?
Stanton: We had about eight or 10 when we first started. Then within a couple weeks we got about a dozen more, and now we have over 30.
At the front counter, Stanton has a chalkboard that lists the names of all the local makers and their companies that are featured in the store. The board features three tightly packed columns of names, and Stanton may have to invest in a bigger chalkboard soon.
Clarion: Do you have a favorite item in the store?
Stanton: Oh gosh, it’s really hard to pick favorites. I do have a couple though. Here and There Jewelry, she uses Nikiski beach sand, which we sent her, as well as things like oyster shells and Amazonite. Her prices are really reasonable, and she’s great about custom orders. Alaska Berry Designs, I love what she does with agates. There’s something for everybody. Meadowlark is one of my favorites. I use their face care products because everything else I’ve tried has really irritated my skin. They’re a mom-and-daughter business out of Anchorage, and the mom actually homesteaded here in Kenai. They have bath bombs, essential oils, moisturizers, even men’s cologne. Glazed and Confused, she’s pretty well known around here and makes great pottery. Like I said, it’s really hard to pick favorites.
Localz is located in the Nikiski Mall near Mile 26 of the Kenai Spur Highway and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Call 907-690-4269 for more information.