Wholly Craft owner's new project targets Ohio-centric goods actually made here

Abernathy Miller, Columbus Alive

It just became easier for small-town retailers to get Ohio-made goods on the shelves of their Ohio-proud stores. In late June, owner of Wholly Craft Olivera Bratich launched Handmade Ohio, a wholesale catalog aimed at bringing Ohio-centric products to retailers around the state. Working as a one-stop shop, Bratich hopes Handmade Ohio will save retailers from hours scanning Etsy and bridge the gap between workshop and gift shop for local artists.

"Nothing drives me crazier than seeing something with an 'Ohio' on it, and then the tag says 'Made in China,'" Bratich, 35, said during a late July interview in her colorful Clintonville store. "There are too many fantastic Ohio artists to let that happen."

Spending 10 years as a retail shop owner specializing in artisanal and local gifts, Bratich has dealt with the time-consuming process of discovering new products and artists for her niche shopping destination. Spending hours scouring the internet for specialized goods and forging business relationships wasn't practical for her or the artists.

"I have seen both vendors and artists struggle with developing new business connections. Consumers already have choices and know where to look; retailers don't always have the time on their hands to seek out the goods they are looking for," she said. "I used to spend all day on Etsy browsing for new artists," Bratich said. "The artists want to make things-that's why they got into their respective business in the first place; seeking new retail relationships falls to the bottom of the to-do list. I wanted to help connect artists to retailers."

Bratich first approached the artisans featured in the catalog in January of last year, but with the chaos associated with Wholly Craft moving to its current location, the concept was placed on the back burner until January of this year. Using her experience at Wholly Craft as a guide, Bratich focused on making Handmade Ohio as user-friendly as possible.

"I knew the information a retailer needs from my own experience. I read those catalog every day and I know what makes an easy order for me. I felt like I could be an affective rep for artists and products I already care about," she said. "There was a gap in the industry. Both the retailers and the artists needed a catalog like this."

The inaugural catalog launched in late June and features diverse product offerings ranging from Alison Rose T-shirts to Stinkybomb Soaps to AmyD housewares. According to Bratich, the response from retailers has been overwhelmingly positive.

"We've had the best response from small retail shops in small- to medium-sized cities," Bratich said. "In a lot of smaller cities in Ohio, there is a booming downtown revitalization movement - which stems a lot from people opening small gift shops. Columbus has understood the importance of 'shopping local,' but now that idea is really starting to take off in smaller markets."

With nearly a half-dozen wholesale orders already under their belt, Bratich is hoping Handmade Ohio takes off during the upcoming holiday season. But more importantly, she hopes Ohio-pride will continue to expand, and more people will become familiar with Ohio's talent pool.

"I never realized how much Ohio gets put down in movies and culture. Every time a 'bumpkin' shows up in a movie, they're from Ohio. But this is a way to show the amount of creativity in Ohio," she said. "For people who have lived in Midwestern cities as adults, we know there are great things happening here. There is plenty of Ohio love to go around. "