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China Grove’s ‘First Friday’ an opportunity for shop owners and crafters

CHINA GROVE — Despite cloudy skies and a brief shower, the streets of China Grove were abuzz with activity Friday evening.

Shop owners and local artisans were set up along Main Street to tout their wares during the town’s second First Friday of 2018.

For shop owners, First Friday offers some guaranteed foot traffic during extended business hours.

“I think people knew about the weather tonight, so it’s been a bit slower,” said Rusty Ritchie of Ritchie and Ritchie’s Home Emporium. “Last month, it was packed.”

The increased traffic allowed Ritchie to market a new product he’s developed with his partner, Tyler.

They pour soy candles under the label North State Candle Co.

“People are loving them,” said Ritchie. “We’re working on getting them stocked in more and more stores locally.”

For local artists and vendors, First Friday offered opportunities to make a few sales and increase product awareness.

Artists and vendors set up tents along the street, offering everything from clothing to pieces of art to food.

Garrett Atwell and April Jackson of Cosmic Canvas were offering acrylic paintings. They have been painting for only a matter of months and discovered First Friday last month.

They live just around the corner and happened to walk into town during First Friday in May.

Atwell said they planned then to set up at the next event.

“It’s been a little slower this time, but it’s still been good,” he said. “It’s exposure, at least.”

That sentiment was echoed by the owners of Dearest Designs and Made Brave Homemade, selling bows, baby bonnets, drink cozies and custom Minnie Mouse-inspired headbands.

“This is actually our first event,” said Caitlin Wilbanks of Made Brave Homemade. “Everything before this has just been word of mouth, friends telling friends and such.”

Wilbanks said growing a customer base through promotions like First Friday felt much less daunting then pursuing customers through digital sites like Etsy.

Still other vendors were testing potential locations for a storefront.

Angela Allman with Tea for Two offered custom cakes and cake pops. All of her goods were organic and not genetically modified. She also makes cakes for those with dietary restrictions.

Currently, she’s based out of her home, but she said she hopes to open a storefront in downtown China Grove soon.

First Friday will return to Main Street from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 3.

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