What started with a little girl hanging streamers, rallying her family toward the holiday or tradition at hand, has grown into a full-blown career. When one takes a look at Sara Martin’s life, it’s evident she has a gift of celebrating. The fantastic news for Waco, Texas? She’s sharing with all, the art of hospitality.
I have a hunch that Sara’s the woman who enters a place having noticed the plants growing in the yard on her way in, sprigs useful for a table setting, an unconventional vessel that no one else might have considered. I imagine she’s one who effortlessly pulls everything together, making the moment, the meal, the event, the day that. much. more. special. She’s a gatherer – of things, of people. This is who she is.
For our city, she has done this (again)!
She and her husband, Jonathan Martin, owner and lead ceramicist at Black Oak Art, were looking for new ways to sell their pottery. Black Oak mainly throws pottery for their wholesale accounts, selling ceramics like mugs, platters, planters to various local shops, one of which being Magnolia Market, some nation-wide.
Sara recalls she and Jonathan’s process when considering a shop, “We thought, Oh! We could have our own shop in downtown Waco! But I didn’t want to just sell pottery. That’s when we first thought, What if we do a store that sold dishes that we made, that help people entertain, that help people in their house – the things I care about?! That seemed like a perfect fit to go along with Black Oak’s functional art and combining my love of entertaining. So we came up with the idea of Gather.”
And, hoo boy, is Sara gathering! Something special, that not very many people know: Sara fills Gather’s shelves with truly local products, made by fellow local artisans, supporting other craftspeople in the city. Not only that, but she collaborates with makers to help design goods she dreams of for Gather, for the Waco public to enjoy, with a specific aesthetic in mind:
“I don’t think that, before Gather opened, you could buy a whole set of dishware that was handmade. You could buy little, one-off pottery at the local Arts Festival. Gather’s made handmade pottery available. Our pieces and the aesthetic of our store – the things I offer tend to be more modern-- I think Gather offers a style of tableware and home goods that not many stores in Waco provide.”
“I reach out to artisans who are already making really great products and I’ll bring a shape or an idea and we collaborate on those. It’s not like, whatever they are making, I’ll carry. It’s specific to Gather; they’re not going to sell that product anywhere else in Waco.
Those collaborated pieces are all slightly unique in that they’ve each been thought through with Gather in mind. I reach out to other makers in America with a similar process. Not 100% of what we sell is that way, but our signature lines are.”
Some of the things carried exclusively at Gather made by local artisans, in Sara’s words:
Ellen Mote of Ellen Mote Jewelry sells really amazing jewelry at Wildland and she may have some pieces at Magnolia. I just love her jewelry so I came to her with a couple shapes and we hammered out what would work as a napkin ring.
Jonathan and the potters at Black Oak Art throw a whole line of dishware and home goods exclusive to Gather, but first, I come to them with either a shape or a style that inspires the actual look of the piece.
Leslie Medlin Design House was born in Waco. (Leslie has since moved to Raleigh, North Carolina.) Her background’s in fashion. She sews really well. She makes all of our napkins.
Josh Morgan’s company called Line does our wood and, soon, some metal work. We’re working on some prototypes right now. Josh did wedding photography and we met when I owned Kindred Event Studio. He makes one board for Magnolia. I brought him a bunch of different shapes, we did the prototyping process, he does all of our cutting boards.
Our aprons are done by Mary Claret, a company founded by Andie Day. She’s a Waco-based linen/clothing line. Andie’s a professor at Baylor in the fashion department and makes really amazing linen skirts. She has retailers in Dallas and Austin and she does pop-up shops. We came up with a couple of designs.
Sara is a part of awakening a sleepy section of Washington on which the shop sits. In asking about dreams for her one year-old business, Sara’s reply matches a well-made piece of pottery: useful, and beautiful:
“The location we chose hasn’t had retail in...decades,” she laughs. “We’re in the process of making people aware that we’re there; we’re still trying to get people’s attention. It’s not any further than a drive to Austin Avenue, really; it just hasn’t been a normal place where people drive by and see. Making Washington a two-way street and adding trees to the sidewalks, even if those happened in the next two years, would be awesome. And just getting a local base of people who are coming back. We have a pretty successful online store, that can reach anyone in the world. We’d like to broaden our customer base.”
Sara, ON Local
“I love the size of Waco; we love the community we found here both with our personal community, with our church and our friends, but also with the town’s business owner community.
There’s just a lot of synergy going on with different creatives and business owners – everybody’s working together and inspiring each other to make Waco beautiful and make it a place that we all want to live and participate in and be involved in. That’s fun to be a part of.”
what Does it Mean to You when someone chooses to shop local?
“I mean, obviously, practically, it means that my business gets to stay open and we get to support our family. And not only that but because we also sell a lot of other local people’s goods, when you shop local, you're directly supporting and providing a living for people who live in your community.”
“There are those percentages, I think over 50 cents of your dollar goes back into your economy, your local economy whenever you shop local. When you go to a boutique or a small business that’s owned by someone local and employs people and especially if they manufacture the goods locally, I can see that impact every day. I can see Josh Morgan and he's supporting his family off the cutting board and that's the same for every single person that makes something for us.”
“You're like actually paying a living wage to somebody doing something that they have always dreamed of doing or that they're really good at, you know?”
What Does it do for Waco when waco buys local?
“This city is better when we have all of these really cool, locally-owned things and everybody wants a city that has those things. But if you don't shop at those places, then all you're going to have is chain stores, which are great! And I shop at them all the time because of what they provide: a wide range of goods that are affordable! But I don't think any of us really want to live in a place that only has those.”
Speaking of employing people, after Gather’s first six months, Sara chose to hire employees rather than pay someone to watch her three children. She also designed a space in the back of the shop just for her kiddos, for sick days or whenever they had to, had to come in with her. Hospitable to the core!
What really stood out about Sara was the lack of pretension and how, the deeper you look, the more there is to celebrate. She’s a friendly, girl next door kinda woman, and I think that’s her key: she keeps it simple + goes after what she dreams up and really wants, no more, no less.
When I asked her about some memorable gatherings or dinners, parties she’d hosted or attended, her answer is one many are coming back to:
“All the things that come to mind of gatherings that are memorable are less memorable because they were super planned or super beautiful and more just because of the people that were there. Like, potlucks, or when we lived in L.A. for a little bit and different people would invite their friends and their work friends over to their house. We didn't know each other...and those were all really sweet times. They weren't necessarily so amazing in any practical way that people like think about, but they were really sweet in just the community that was there, together.”
So, not a Pinterest-perfect thing?
“Right. I think of this series of farm-to-table dinners that I did with Corey who owns Milo. We did them over the course of a year and a half, a few years ago, before he opened his restaurant. Those definitely stick out the most in my mind. They weren’t elaborate in decor or anything like that; they were styled and put together, but it was still a mix match of people and individuals. The food was always great and people always came with intention to really connect with one another. And those definitely stick out as well.”
If you want to increase connection or the art of hospitality in your life, Sara’s store is the place for you. Zip by Gather! And before you do, download the Towny app. Towny’s an easy way to keep it local, supporting friends and neighbors’ dreams + bolstering your local economy AT THE SAME TIME! Yours in seconds here!