Sequim Bay Merchants, SNAP partner to offer holiday gift shopping

With Thanksgiving here and gone, more and more people are putting up festive lights, decorations and trees.

The holiday shopping season is in full force as the countdown for Christmas begins.

This year, Sequim has a unique venue for buying gifts. Cathy Wilson and Lavon Gomes, owners of Sequim Bay Merchants, are partnering with Special Needs Advocacy Parents and offering an entrepreneurial training program for artists with developmental disabilities.

The Community Christmas Shoppe, originally scheduled to open on Black Friday, Nov. 28, but delayed until Friday, Dec. 5, will offer the works of 12 peninsula artists - including American Indian artist Linda Silvas, Charitable Arts founder Jeff Becker and photographer Jim Stuart - and a handful of artists from SNAP's EnterpriZe program.

In addition to selling arts and crafts, SNAP members will receive on-the-job training, learning how to sell artwork and run a business. The experience is designed to "foster art expression and develop living, job and social skills that can be transferred to everyday living," explained Bonne Smith, EnterpriZe instructor. "If you provide somebody with the skills and knowledge, the want to learn is intrinsic."

SNAP leaders approached Wilson and Gomes about renting the empty space at 149 W. Washington St., through Jan. 3, 2009. Previously occupied by Sequim Bay Merchants, the building has been empty since January 2008 but the lease doesn't expire until December 2009.

"It was just time to move on," Gomes said about closing Sequim Bay Merchants. "But we thank the community and other business owners for their continued support over the last three-and-a-half years. It was fun while it lasted."

SNAP members regularly sell artwork and handmade crafts at the Sequim Irrigation Festival, Lavender Festival and the Sequim Open Aire Market.

"We really wanted a place we could vend more frequently that will bring in an ongoing stream of funds," explained Leslie Lauren, project director. "It took off like a shot. We've really got a lot of support from parents and the community."

If the holiday shop is successful, SNAP is considering asking Wilson and Gomes to extend the partnership. "We would be very much for that but there would be some logistics to figure out," Lauren said realistically.

The store, which will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Sunday with extended hours until 8 p.m. for First Friday Art Walks on Dec. 5 and Jan. 2 and the week of Christmas, Dec. 22-24, will be operated by volunteers. Artists must consign their work with the understanding that 25 percent of the sales benefit SNAP or the Dungeness Valley Health and Wellness Clinic.

"You will find a broad range of merchandise and prices while supporting important causes in the community," Lauren said.

If the sublease is extended, organizers will seek additional vendors.

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