From antiques and collectibles to jewelry and home décor, the Braselton Antique & Artisan Festival is a treasure trove for patrons looking for unique and handcrafted items. The recent event held April 23, 24 and 25 was no different from festivals past.
The event, now in its 18th year, drew more than 300 vendors set up along Harrison Street and Frances Street, in Braselton Park and inside and outside the Braselton Historic Gymnasium. Despite inclement weather part of the weekend, the three-day festival was successful in drawing crowds when the weather was nice.
“On Sunday, we had the bulk of the crowd due to the weather on Saturday,” said Bradi Newman, owner of Alabaster Co., which is based in Hoschton and features clothing and accessories. “You can tell that people’s comfort level in terms of going out in public (since COVID-19 began), it’s being restored again.”
COVID-19 had a particularly drastic effect on Newman’s business — just before the pandemic started she was preparing to sign a lease for a space in Braselton where she could begin creating a boutique. But she pressed the pause button on her plans when she had a feeling the timing wasn’t right. A month later, COVID-19 began to run its course.
Instead of focusing on a retail space, Newman decided to start trunk shows locally.
“I started small and I thought to myself, let me just take a little bit of money, let me invest it and let me see what I can do here locally,” she said.
After starting up her trunk shows, Newman came across information on Instagram for a one-day show in Braselton in December 2020, a show she says was a success. Newman followed that up with a three-day festival in February. Now, drawing on the success of the April festival, Newman is preparing to purchase a retrofitted mobile truck to start a boutique on wheels to work her business full time. She said entrepreneurship runs in her family — both her mother and father are entrepreneurs.
The April Braselton Antique & Artisan Festival was Debbie Mays’ fourth time participating in the event as a vendor. The Duluth-based crafter is the founder of Ladies and Gems, which started as a jewelry business in 2000 before Mays transitioned into specializing in handcrafted leather bags seven or eight years ago. The bags are handcrafted from start to finish with rough cut, natural edges that make each bag unique and impossible to duplicate.
“I never make the same bag twice,” Mays said. “They’re all original, one of a kind.”
Like many businesses, particularly those that sell at festivals like the one in Braselton, Mays said COVID definitely affected her business.
“It was definitely a hard year, that’s for sure. I rely on the in person sales from the shows, so when COVID hit, that hurt,” Mays said. “Braselton’s shows definitely helped because I did two of them last year.”
Mays is already making plans to attend the upcoming Braselton Antique & Artisan Festival on Oct. 22, 23 and 24.
“It’s got that hometown feel,” she said.
Can’t wait for the October festival? The Art-Tiques Vintage Market featuring more than 125 vendors will be held June 25, 26 and 27, as well as Aug. 27, 28 and 29. For more information, visit www.vintagemarkets.net.
Check out Alabaster Co. on Instagram at shopalabastercompany.
Find out more about Ladies and Gems at ladiesandgems.net.