COLORADO SPRINGS — Peri Bolts welcomed a FOX21 News crew into her store, Eclectic CO, before it opened for the day on a recent Friday. A few artists chatted near the register and we were free to look around displays of cards, dishwares, soaps, candles and more. All of them, made by local vendors.
The store which opened in 2018, currently houses and sells goods for 65 different vendors. It’s located on Tejon Street, across from Acacia Park in downtown Colorado Springs. You’ll find the entrance nestled between a realtor and a, now defunct, card store.
Meet the Makers: Christine Borst
Bolts, who has a background in business operations, said the shop was born of a greater desire.
“I was a Starbucks manager for a long time and was just really looking for a way that I could be more involved in the community and create something that was community-focused social impact,” she said, her voice muffled by a thick, sequined-mask.
Bolts described finding and connecting with the “maker community” in Colorado Springs, which she was introduced to through Wilder Bag Co and Bonbon Bombardier, two vendors whose goods can be shopped at Eclectic Co.
These ‘makers’, Bolts said, are people with small and micro businesses, who create unique products right here in town. Sometimes they’re called curators, Bolts said, and they repurpose and improve vintage clothing and other items. Sometimes they’re artists, who create fine art, studio art, and more.
“We try to use all of the adjectives,” Bolt said with a smile. “But ‘maker’ kind of encompasses everything.”
As word of Eclectic Co, and its mission to create a retail space that works equally for makers and consumers spread, the shelves and spaces inside the shop began to fill.
“When we first started, we only had 20 makers that opened the store with us. We were only 40 percent full,” Bolts said, gesturing to the very front of the store, a somewhat narrow space that stretches back. “People started seeking us out, so pretty quickly we were completely full and had to start a waiting list.”
85 vendors are on that list right now, Bolts said.
Ani Trejo Barrington was one of the first vendors to sign on with Eclectic Co with her vintage clothing business, Two Wolves Boutique.
“I was actually a stay at home mom,” Trejo Barrington said of life before Eclectic Co. “I had a whole career in ministry – youth and ministry in Texas – and so by the time I got to Colorado, I was a blank canvas. I could do whatever I wanted.”
Trejo Barrington said, although ministry could be a draining experience at times, she still loved being with people and helping them whenever possible. And, she said she remembers being surprised when connecting with Eclectic Co felt similar to ministry in some ways.
“When people walk in they immediately feel warmth and welcomed and they feel like they’re in a safe space,” Trejo Barrington said. “That’s kind of what anybody wants, I think, in any space, right? Whether it’s a restaurant or a retail space or whatever.”
It feels safe, she said, because it is.
“We are pretty passionate about equality for all and honoring the races and backgrounds of every person that comes through the door, and so, I think that with that comes a pretty big responsibility – what we represent, who we bring in, so that communicates to the rest of the city that we’re an open place here. We love everyone.”
The concept of “community’, Bolts said, is consistent, so it makes sense for her shop to evolve along with the community it serves.
“We recently just added Colorado Springs Oversight as a vendor,” she said. “They are in here now, having a platform to sell their tee shirts and get their message out there.”
They jumped that lengthy waitlist, too.
“The space had just opened up, so it was a natural fit, but also like – we gotta make this a priority,” Bolts said. “Being vocal about our support for justice and for people in our community is just kind of a natural thing for us.”
Bolts said they’re matching their method to their message, too.
“We increased the intensity with which we’re seeking artists of color. A few people had been seeking us out in the weeks before the protests and due to COVID, due to different life circumstances… we kind of had an influx of artists of color all at the same time,” she said.
There’s still a gap, she said, in People of Color as business owners. She hopes that continues to change.
Christine Borst is part of that movement, too.
She started shopping at Eclectic Co after winning a gift card to the shop through a contest on social media.
“I see so many cool peole who genuinely care about the city and the people in it – and the people in it, no matter what they look like or who they love or where they come from – and to me, that’s why I think it’s important to support small businesses,” Borst said. “It’s the small businesses who are speaking up and speaking out and putting money back into the community.”
Borst said she quit her job as a college professor just a few months ago, in order to write and illustrate books. She’ll also sell prints and products at Eclectic Co.
“I love that this store – they’re not just selling stuff, right? They’re a community movement,” she said. “They were the first in their displays and in the products, in the vendors, and to own what could have been done better and to say, ‘ok this is what we’re changing.’ If we all did that – we would see change so quickly.”
Taryn Malila has lived in Colorado Springs just about a year. She said her first downtown shopping experience happened, randomly, at Ecclectic. And she unveiled a bit of a secret ahead of the holiday season.
“It’s where I buy every gift now,” she said, laughing.
But, Malila said, the shop means more to her than that.
“Eclectic definitely brings out a different sense of community than I was expecting. It’s so inclusive here and it’s so female-driven,” she smiled. “It’s just such a nice, little, shiny corner downtown. I’m proud to say, ‘this is a place in my town.”
That last comment was met by a chorus of appreciative comments, as the group of women had gathered near the front of the store, which, moments earlier, had officially opened for the day.
Trejo Barrington pushed a wheeled-cart, laden with clothing, toward the sidewalk, hoping to raise some interest and bring in some foot traffic.
“This is kind of the charm now of Colorado Springs,” she said. “There’s a whole artist, maker community that wants to help you. We want you to be a part of this.”
Bolts, of course, agrees. And, she says, the concept is working.
“Colorado Springs is on the map for not only nonprofits, but also social impact,” she said. “So I knew there was a lot of support for it here and a big opportunity.”