PEORIA, Ill.–Seven days a week, you’ll find Andre Ware at Northwoods Mall. But he’s not shopping his days away. He owns In and Out Craft Market.
“What we consider ourselves to be is like a mall within the mall,” Ware said.
For this Peorian, business is in his blood.
He said, “After working with my parents who had a bakery here in the city for 12 years, I knew I didn’t want to go into baked goods. So I wanted to do something that was going to help people and it just fell into place.”
But the process didn’t come without its own set of challenges. Three months after Ware opened his original store location in Peoria, it flooded.
“We were out of business for like two months and we thought it was over, but God had different things in mind for us,” said Ware.
Ware reopened his store in Northwoods Mall six months ago, bringing more life, crafts and small business owners to the center.
“With all of the negative things that are going on in the community, we want a chance to show the positive side of Peoria and the mall,” said Ware.
He works with a team of more than 40 artisan makers to display and sell their various crafts to the community.
Ware said, “People and crafters and artisan makers are always around and there’s always somebody who wants a chance to promote their items and they just might not have enough money to do that. This is a nice platform and starter for anyone who’s thinking about trying to open up their own business.”
The business helps Ware not only connect with vendors. But he’s also able to connect vendors with customers.
“People–when they’re coming into the store–are really elated to see something new and to know that it’s local artists who are the ones that are selling their items,” he said.
While every day brings a sense of newness at In and Out Craft Market, Ware’s message is consistent:
“Support small businesses. You know this is the way that we’re going to help build the community up is by promoting those small business members. Those people that are right there in the trenches with you and who are trying to do something different and focus on the positive.”
Ware hopes to expand In and Out Craft Market locations in the future.