The strong smell of scented wax greets customers as they walk in the shop’s door. Their eyes are quickly drawn around the room to any one of the multiple displays of carefully crafted pieces.
The shop is Bits & Pieces, a reopening of the downtown store previously known as Moosabella’s. The crafted pieces available include a wide variety of jewelry, home décor and gifts, nearly all of which are handmade by local artists.
Leticia Smugala, a John Brown University 2008 graduate, heard the business was for sale and decided to buy it with her husband Adam to see what she could do with it. The store closed for about four weeks so the Smugalas could repaint the walls and retag the items. Bits & Pieces opened for business on Jan. 12.
“We’re going on an adventure with this,” Smugala said. “I couldn’t find a job, and I’m not the sit at home type – so I made a job for myself.”
Bits & Pieces, like Moosabella’s, primarily sells items made by vendors who rent space in the store. While many of the vendors are the same, Smugala also brought in new ones. One of her goals is to make the store trendier and more appealing to a broader range of ages.
Types of items available from the 15 vendors:
•Hand-painted wood signs with sayings
•Bottle cap earrings
•Repurposed furniture items
•Scented soaps in food-themed shapes
•Wire jewelry made by a young girl
Stores such as Bits & Pieces are important for local artists, Smugala said. People who make items on the side cannot always afford to open their own store. Providing them with an opportunity to sell their handcrafted items is one reason she wanted to buy the business.
Marikit Fain, archives coordinator at the University, is one of the new vendors at the store. She makes steam punk jewelry. Her husband, sophomore Aaron Fain, helps her by taking apart items they buy.
Fain said she started creating her jewelry about a year ago and sold a few things on Etsy. But that could be a hassle because of needing to refresh posts frequently. Displaying at Bits & Pieces is simpler because she can just take things into the store to keep her shelves stocked.
Fain made about 15 items in a week and a half to prepare for the store’s opening, she said. At this point, she is seeing how it goes to sell at the store.
“It’s an interesting experiment right now,” she said. “I’m trying to see if this is just a hobby or something I really want to get invested in.”
Fain added that Smugala is doing a good job looking out for her sellers’ interests. Smugala wants each of her vendors to offer something unique to the store, rather than having multiple people with similar items.
Smugala is continuing to bring in new vendors, and said she expects to begin offering their items in the next month or so.
The owner of Moosabella’s, Billie Stone, had the store for nearly two years. Stone said the original opening of Moosabella’s answered five years’ of prayers.
“It was a passion of mine, and I loved it,” Stone added. “It had a season, and God had a purpose for that. Now it is somebody else’s dream.”
Stone cut down on her day job, running a residential cleaning business, in order to open the store. She said she felt the “pull of the Holy Spirit” to sell Moosabella’s because having the store placed more of a financial burden on Jim, her husband.
“It was very bitter sweet,” Stone said. “But I know I’m being obedient to God.”
Moosabella’s downsized as Stone and three vendors moved to a smaller display area at Cottage Haven near Walmart.
“Leticia has done a good job with the store,” Stone said. “She has completely got her mark on it. I am wishing her all the best, and I hope she is blessed by it as much as I was.”
Senior Brian Morsman said stores such as Bits & Pieces are unique to small towns. Kansas City, where he is from, lacks small businesses which focus on offering handmade, artisan items.
“I’ve lost my appetite for buying gifts at Walmart or T.J. Maxx,” Morsman said. “Some stores like Anthropologie try to have a veneer of authenticity, but they still have that corporate feel.”
Morsman added that he would much rather support truly local work through businesses such as Bits & Pieces.
Morsman started displaying the hollow book boxes he makes at Moosabella’s last August and is now at Bits & Pieces. He said the transition was easy since he only had to take his items out for a couple weeks of painting.
He compared Bits & Pieces to a “walk-in Etsy store.”
“There’s something special about having a real store,” Morsman said. “You get much more out of the experience than just shopping online. It has a personal aspect, which is a big reason I want to sell there.”
Bits & Pieces is located at 116 S. Broadway in downtown Siloam Springs near Fratelli’s.