How Growing Up in West Virginia Influenced my Desire to Shop Small

Megan Ursic, Local Wares and Fares Explorer

West Virginia native Megan Ursic is the founder of The Handcrafted Cooperative, a seasonal outdoor retail market dedicated to items made by makers and small business owners in Morgantown, WV.  Megan started The Handcrafted Cooperative so makers could build relationships with their community and customers without the expense of owning a storefront. The market helps improve the local economy, support small business and keep West Virginia’s community unique.

As a little girl, growing up in West Virginia, my family didn’t have the shopping options that we have today.  My grandmother made my first school formal dress. My mother cooked meals, from scratch, every night for dinner. When I wanted to accessorize my wardrobe, I made my own jewelry. I still remember making a special trip down High Street to visit Bead Monster (now Silver Pennies Jewelry) to buy the materials I needed to make a bracelet.  Like many West Virginians, we utilized our own talents and local businesses to support our quality of life.

How Big Box Stores Influenced my Spending Habits

In my 20s, chains started to pop up in Morgantown and around the state. I’m not going to lie– when Target opened at the University Town Center, I went there several times a week! I loved that I could grab a coffee at Starbucks then browse for clothing, home decor and accessories.  As the options for shopping and dining grew, the majority of my spending budget went to big box stores and items that were mass produced. It wasn’t until my late 20s when I started my own handmade business that I realized my shopping choices were out of alignment with my upbringing, and they weren’t supporting the small businesses that kept my community unique.

Before you Make a Purchase, ask Yourself These 4 Questions

Since that realization, I haven’t totally cut out shopping or eating at chains – they’re convenient, affordable and offer a variety of everyday items I need in my busy life.  I have found a balance, though. You can find balance, too, by asking yourself a few questions before you make a purchase:

Do I know a maker or small business that sells a similar item?

I’ve always wanted a handmade ceramic dinnerware set, so I’m making an effort to buy plates, bowls, mugs and serving platters made by East Wheeling Clay Works when I can afford it.  I just keep adding to my collection.  My family and guests appreciate our meals in a different way knowing we’re dining with plates that took just as much effort to make as the food we’re eating.

Does this purchase support someone in my local community?

I stopped drinking Starbucks when Quantum Bean Coffee opened their doors in 2017.  I take pride in knowing I’m supporting owners Sam and Susan Bonasso when I buy their in-house roasted coffee beans every week!  There’s nothing better than knowing the cold brew I’m drinking this morning made a difference in my community.

Does this purchase bring me joy (or will it give others joy)?

I think of this question especially when buying fine art or home decor.  We want to fill our interior environmentals with things that evoke happy memories.  When guests come to my home and complement the beautiful watercolor on my wall, I smile and say, “that’s by Octavia Spriggs.  It was inspired by a hike at Dolly Sods.  I remember seeing the same view when I was there.”  I love telling stories about the items I purchase and display in my home.

Can I make this item myself?

If you’re a DIY-er like me, you enjoy learning new skills and putting them to practice.  Learning new skills is easy: sign up for a local workshop, ask a friend/family member to teach you or utilize online classes.  Nothing makes me more proud than to say, “I made this!”

West Virginia’s Community is Embracing Small Businesses

Since the first Handcrafted Cooperative event in 2017, I’ve seen a huge shift in Morgantown’s consumer mindset.  Our community is embracing makers and businesses that offer unique items made by hand (or with help from US manufacturers in small batches) more than ever!  We’re grateful for our customers that respect our work and want to see us thrive– especially in a world where we now have limitless options.

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This post was last updated on March 18, 2022