Downtown retail shops are a bit of an oddity.
Odder still is to think of a downtown Akron retail spot opting to get bigger.
But the Zeber-Martell clay studio/gallery in the city’s Northside District did just that.
And the expanded shop — which woos holiday shoppers with its popular handmade, multicolored ceramic tree ornaments — now has on-street frontage.
The shop remains at the old brick 43 Furnace Street building, cater-cornered from Luigi’s Italian restaurant. Previously, the shop’s entrance was in an alley off to the side.
“The visibility is incredible here,” said Claudia Zeber, who owns the shop with her husband and fellow ceramic artist, Michael Martell.
“We’ve seen people do U-turns on the street,” she said. “It looks great lit at night.”
The studio/gallery now boasts 1,800 square feet of leased space, up from 700 square feet. Shoppers can peruse Zeber and Martell’s ornaments as well as their handmade lamps, mirrors and other items, in a warmly lit, uncluttered display area. The shop also features works by a few other artists who Zeber and Martell have met over the years.
Today, Zeber and Martell will be among small shopkeepers in the area celebrating Small Business Saturday. American Express created Small Business Saturday two years ago. It’s a marketing shtick, obviously, and also a way to promote shopping at mom-and-pop enterprises.
The Zeber-Martell gallery expansion coincides with the shop’s launch of its new series of ornaments playing off the Twelve Days of Christmas theme. One bauble features a partridge in a pear tree and another boasts two turtle doves.
Up next year: Three French hens and four calling birds. Two new ornaments will be available in each of the following years, until all 12 days have been featured.
The ornaments — sold as a boxed pair for $68 — are being marketed as limited edition collectibles.
For the expansion, the studio/gallery moved into an area of the building that was previously home to Neil Leeson Decor Floral.
The floral design and event business moved to bigger quarters on Western Avenue in West Akron.
Zeber noted that the studio/gallery also has boosted its payroll, hiring two new workers, one focusing on sales and another working primarily in the studio. “We’re adding jobs to this economy,” she said. Previously, Zeber and her husband were the only full-timers.
The ceramic artists are Northside District stalwarts, having moved into the area roughly 20 years ago, long before the area became known as an arts district.
Area entrepreneur Jill Bacon Madden, who last month bought the Northside Bar and Grille in the area, said she was excited to see the store expand. “They were pioneers here,” she said, “and have worked tirelessly for years to create something really special.”
The Northside District also is home to the Akron Glass Works studio and gift shop at 106 N. Main St., the Millworks Gallery and various artists’ studios.
Zeber said expanding “wasn’t as big a risk as you might think. We had an established clientele in the area.”
Still, she and her husband know they must stay on their marketing toes.
To that end, the shop is offering expanded holiday hours, Friday night wine tastings and a Handmade Holidays Open House from 11 a.m to 10 p.m. Dec. 1. For more information, go online to www.zeber-martell.com.
The open house coincides with December’s downtown Artwalk, which runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Dec. 1. Visit http://www.downtownakron.com/enjoy/artwalk.
Beacon Journal business writer Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.