The ‘Made in Baker’ store

By ED MERRIMAN, Baker City Herald October 02, 2008 01:00 am

Store at Chamber of Commerce office offers variety of local hand-made items


Debi Bainter checks one of her favorite scented candles made by Primitives by Pam. Bainter is the Chamber executive director. The store also has books, hats and shirts that depict Baker County in words and pictures. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
Debi Bainter checks one of her favorite scented candles made by Primitives by Pam. Bainter is the Chamber executive director. The store also has books, hats and shirts that depict Baker County in words and pictures. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
The Chamber Store inside the Baker County Chamber of Commerce provides a place for area artisans and businesses to sell hand-made gifts, authentic Baker City souvenirs and other items.

The store also directs visitors to local shops.

Chamber Manager Debi Bainter said the Chamber Store, at 490 Campbell St. near Interstate 84, is a highly visible place for merchants, artisans and home-based businesses to display and sell a sampling of their merchandise.

“The more stuff people see here, the more they travel down Main Street to shop,” Bainter said. “When people get off the Interstate and stop at the chamber, my hope is that they will see something that piques their interest, so we can direct them to a business in town where they can find more of it.”

Many items in the Chamber Store were hand-crafted by local painters, wood-workers, quilters, doll-makers, embroiderers and other artisans.

Store customers often comment on how nice it is to find gifts and souvenirs that are actually made in the Baker area, Bainter said.

“It’s not that ‘made in China’ stuff,” she said.

As an analogy, Bainter cites the difference between inviting guests into your home and offering them warm, home-made cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven, to plunking down a box of store-bought doughnuts.

The hand-made touch creates a sense that Baker City is a very friendly community, Bainter said.

“They feel welcome here.”

She said local residents also enjoy having authentic hand-made items to take home as mementoes of the region’s Western heritage and variety of events.

From rodeo and bull riding events in Baker City, Haines and Halfway, to fishing, hunting, golfing, as well as annual events like the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, Miners Jubilee and Elkhorn Classic bicycle race, the area is fertile ground for memorabilia, Bainter said.

The variety of items in the Chamber Store also shows visitors and locals that “we have a lot of talented people in Baker,” Bainter said.

Hand-made items in the Chamber Store range from wooden cutting boards, trivet hot dish holders and “Lazy Susans” to wooden cookbook stands and plaques made of a variety of woods by Alan and Arlene Shively, owners of the Shively Shack in Baker City.

Bainter said Alan Shively, who is legally blind, does marvelous, meticulously handcrafted woodwork.

Grandmothers shopping for special gifts find it hard to resist the genuine sheepskin booties and other items hand-crafted by Linda Smith, owner of The Shearling Corral in Haines.

“Linda makes little baby booties, seat belt pads, eyeglass holders out of sheepskin. She also makes a line of darling Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls out of sheep skin and wool,” Bainter said.

The Chamber Store also sells items that  commemorate local events, or bear cute sayings about events or life in the Baker City area, including a line of coffee mugs by Joanna Dixon of Purple Bear Ceramics.

Bainter said children’s apparel from Misty Brinton and Bonnie Smith of Elkhorn Embroidery featuring buffalo emblems with the phrase “I Ran With The Herd” are popular gift items for children.

One of the hottest selling items this summer was the line of T-shirts, caps and other apparel from Blue Mountain Design Works featuring their original phrase “To Hell You Ride,” which Bainter said refers to the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally.

There’s also a wide range of arts and crafts, ranging from original watercolor paintings to wall hangings and refrigerator magnets with clever sayings created by Pam Bingham, owner of Powder Valley Primitives in North Powder.

Colorful, handmade baby quilts, embroidered pillow cases, painted glass vases and a wooden rocking horse are among the items consigned by Ann Camarata, owner of Ann C. Crafts.

For gourmet coffee lovers, there’s also a selection of locally ground coffees from two coffee shops, including Sorbenots owned by Phil and Jason Stone; and the Coffee Corral owned by Kris Barr and Cathie McElveen.     

The Chamber Store is a place where local artisans can consign and sell merchandise, provided they have paid their $70 annual Chamber membership. Also, the Chamber keeps 15 percent of the sales price to cover staff time and credit card processing fees.

In addition to providing greater exposure for artisans and home-based businesses, Bainter said the variety of local merchandise reminds locals about what’s available around the county.

“We get a lot of requests for books on the history of the area. We stock a few of those types of books, but we also tell people there’s a much wider selection downtown at Betty’s Books,” Bainter said.

That’s one example of how Bainter and other Chamber staffers and volunteers make a point of talking with folks and directing them to local businesses, as well as lodging, restaurants and entertainment venues.

“We have just enough stuff to wet their whistle, and if they can’t find what they want here, we tell them they can step across the street to the Baker Truck Corral or continue down the street to other businesses to keep on shopping,” Bainter said.