BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Self expression is paramount to any artist or creator, and locally those people have now have downtown outlet to market those expressions.
Jessica Northrup has moved her “Vitality” into the Main Street district into a retail space at 809 Avenue G and inviting anyone who has a penchant for creating be it sewing, drawing, or other specialized creations, to grab a shelf and market your goods.
The location opened in May and on Friday Northrup and partner Mandy Land, invited the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors to stop in and hear what the store features.
Land, a registered nurse, was brought in by Northrup as a partner and Land will be focusing on healing and massage.
Before moving into the Main Street District, Northrup had a location out on the city’s west end by Dollar General.
“I opened back in January at a different location. The building wasn’t big enough and everything started going wrong all at one time and I was either going to lose my business or move it. So I went against everyone’s advice and moved it,” Northrup said with a chuckle.
She said the store is full of locally produced wares from paintings, to clothes, to dreamcatchers and even earthware like stones and minerals.
There is also a casual place with games and a television for children who are just looking for a place to come in and try some art or play games or read.
Northrup said she would find it hard pressed to turn someone away who has a locally and self-produced.
“Obviously we don’t have time to do everything in there and I’m a mom with a large arsenal of children and I work another job, but I know when I was a single mom or stay at home mom, I did a lot of crafts and selling on the Internet wasn’t enough all the time. That’s what gave me the idea to do it, kind of like a consignment store where we could give vendors a chance to come in and bring the things they make and sell it, and not just that, but give them a chance to market it there stuff as well.”
Land brings something different to the table and the business. She works with self-healing, and Northrup said she is Reiki master and Chakra, both self-atunnement processes. She said classes are currently underway on Friday and Sundays.
“We have group meditations on Fridays and we have different classes like Sunday evening think tanks where we come together and discuss topics,” Land said.
“We found this building and fell in love with it,” she said. “I work at Blood Center of the Mississippi Valley, but this is what I do for fun and is my hobby. It’s multicultural and mulitgenerational and contains a little bit of everything from the artist. Anything we have in here is going to be artist-made locally or earth made.”
Northrup said she also looks at the space for are youth to have a place to do something different than work with their thumbs on digital devices.
“I have quite a few kids and the one thing I always have to fight with is video games. I absolutely hate them,” she said. ‘There are kids out there that want to do something, they just don’t know what or how to do it. I’m not the type of mom to draw a picture for my kids to color. I will make them show me their version of it. So if a kids comes in and wants to do a canvas, I’ll hand them a canvas and a pencil and its… show me what you got. And they have the choice to sell it, keep it ,or display it in the window.”
Northrup said her speciality is herbs and helping people learn about the difference between weeds and herbs and how to best utilize them for their health.
On August 11th, Northrup said she has scheduled the store’s second “Open Mic Night” where people can come and sing, or read poetry or play instruments, whatever they’d like to do performance-wise in front of a group of peers. She did the first open-mic night several weeks ago, and after a slow start about 15 people were in attendance.
“It was more than I ever-imagined and I was really happy with the way that worked out. I wasn’t sure what was going on at the beginning, but then people started coming in and then about six kids with guitars and instruments came in and it was just amazing,” she said.
Hours at the store range and the Vitality Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Vitality-1174862022644530/, shows the store opening at 2 p.m., but Northrup said sometimes she’ll keep the doors open late if people are in working on projects and the best way is to just try the door handle.