By Elaine Van Develde
“We give hugs here.”
That’s what you’d get as a send-off from Melanie Stewart if you visited her and her husband David’s Fair Haven store, Handmade Haven, when it first opened last December. And she meant it. The hugs were and still are Melanie’s sincere expression of appreciation for your patronage of all area artisans and their unique wares.
That’s what Handmade Haven was created to do — “connect the community with local and unique handmade creations that have artisan heart and soul,” as its mission statement says. And the two have a special love of all things local, as they are Fair Havenites.
It was right around the Christmas holiday season that the couple opened their store in the borough’s business district on River Road. Since then, the economy has gotten the better of their budget and means to operate their business out of a stationery local store. However, economics have not hampered the couple’s passionate mission to make the most of local artisans’ talent.
Call it a craft shop gone creative caravan, or “beyond the brick and mortar” as a “mobile force for handmade and local.” The two, since moving from the store, have been scouting area markets, fairs, shows and other per diem venues to set up tent, so to speak, and get area artisan’s work shown and sold.
“We just found that we were spending more money on the actual space than we were making or investing in all of this unique work crafted by these talented local people,” Melanie said. “It’s been fun and it’s working well this way. There’s so much talent in the area and it’s so important to support local businesses and artisans.”
The value of buying local is unsurpassed, she added, as it boosts the local economy while putting food on neighbors’ plates and passing the word about their work. Handmade Haven is, in that respect, an artists’ cooperative of sorts.
And there’s quite a variety of unique pieces for sale at the Haven: jewelry, much of which is made by Melanie herself (Your Karma is Rockin’), peace wreaths, decoys by a Rumson police officer, furniture, allergen-free handmade soap, scented candles in old Coke and beer bottles, votives in tree limbs, ceramics, paintings, vintage fabric purses by Stag + Laurel, leather and charm wrap bracelets by Cold Garage Creations, and more.
You can catch Melanie and David at their Handmade Haven tent on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Red Bank Farmers Market in the Galleria parking lot.
In the meantime, take a look at some of the goods from the original store location.