Event also features current MVLY tenants Guideboat Co., Bloomingayles, Ambatalia, as well as Flour Craft Bakery, which is also set to open there in early 2018.

Makers Market owner Suzy Ekman, at center, along with scenes from her other stores and outdoor markets. Courtesy images.

The DIY spirit has long been prevalent in Mill Valley, from its decades-old craft fairs and arts festivals to creative hubs like Once Around and more recent additions like Pollen + Wool and Mint, retail shops that spotlight independent makers.

Now Makers Market, the newest kid on the DIY block in town, is looking to take the celebration of makers to the next level, opening its latest retail shop within the historic Mill Valley Lumber Yard at 129 Miller Ave. in early 2018.

In advance of that, MVLY and Makers Market are co-hosting a Holiday Craft Fair on Saturday, Dec. 16 (10am-5pm), featuring products from more than a dozen Bay Area makers (list below).  The event will also feature current MVLY tenants Guideboat Co., Bloomingayles and Ambatalia, as well as Flour Craft Bakery, which is also set to open there in early 2018, with Bloomingayles hosting wreath making classes and Ambatalia sharing tips for sustainable living during the holidays and throughout the year.

MVLY co-owner Jan Mathews connected with Ekman at her Santana Row store during one of her regular outdoor craft fairs. The two hit it off and decided to have Ekman take about 900 square feet of space in the southern end of the Lumber Yard, which the Mathews family bought in 2012 from the Cerri family, which had owned and maintained it as a lumber yard and True Value hardware store for the previous 14 years. The property was built by lumber magnate Robert Dollar in 1892 as Dollar Lumber Company.

The Mathews steered their plans to renovate the 42,500-square-foot property through the Planning Commission and City Council before garnering approval in July 2016. They’re now on the home stretch of that vast renovation.

The concept for Makers Market spawned in Ekman’s vivid memories of helping her father in his workshop as a girl growing up in Huntsville, Alabama. “We just had such great access to so many different kinds of people who made things,” she says. “As a result, I grew up with a great appreciation for that and loved the type of people that do that type of thing for a living, just  – extremely genuine and down to earth, resourceful people.”

Ekman went cross-country to Cal Poly for college, majoring in business before moving into a long career in the tech consulting world.“After 25-30 years of doing that, it became time to do what I was super passionate about which was the American craft collectors for my entire life,” she says.

Ekman originally planned to open a business that provided equipment, technological and marketing support for makers, but as she dug into the business, she realized that retail, specifically an online store for makers, was a better idea.

She launched in June 2014, and opened a pop-up shop in the Westfield Center in San Francisco five months later. Ekman moved the shop to a larger space within Westfield for one year through late 2015, and then opened a shop in Santana Row in San Jose. In July 2017, she opened another store in Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek.

One of the distinctive elements of Makers Market are the regular events that step beyond the confines of the retail space. Ekman hosts monthly outdoor markets, providing an opportunity for artists whose work is not yet on Makers Market shelves to showcase their work in that setting. The typical event hosts about 50 artists, featuring live music and drinks. The MVLY location will host at least six outdoor markets a year, Ekman says.

“We use it as a test market for what products sell well in that marketplace,” she says. “That’s a big way that we learn what will end up in Makers Market. We are all about letting local makers get exposure.”

Ekman is steeped in the world of makers and craftspeople. She’s a national curator for the American Craft Council, the oldest nonprofit supporting American crafts in the country.

“That means that I get to review thousands of artisans across the country every year,” Ekman says. “A lot of those products end up being in our stores and at our markets.”

For the past several years, Ekman has also served on a panel of experts that also includes reps from Etsy and Kickstarter to determine USA Today’s annual “10Best Makers in the USA.” “The beauty of it is that I wind up nominating a lot of the makers I work with,” she says.

The key to Makers Market, Ekman says, is that each location features local makers.

“A big thing for us is to have it be as local as possible,” she says.

The 411: Makers Market, which is set to open in the Mill Valley Lumber Yard in early 2018, hosts and curates a holiday craft fair on Saturday, Dec. 16 (10am-5pm). The event will also feature current MVLY tenants Guideboat Co., Bloomingayles, Ambatalia, as well as Flour Craft Bakery, which is also set to open there in early 2018. At the Dec. 16th event, Bloomingayles hosts wreath making classes and Ambatalia shares tips for sustainable living during the holidays and throughout the year. MORE INFO. Here’s a list of some of the makers who will be showcasing their products at the Holiday Craft Fair on Dec. 16: 

Tisha Handmade
Soicher Ceramics
Adelyn SF
Alicia Toldi
Little Sky Home
Julie Cristello
Designs in the Light
Roots and Blooms
Kirsten Muenster Jewelry
Spinning wool
​Wooden spoons
​Ceramics/home goods
​Organic body products