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West returns to roots on Square

Published: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 4:17 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 12:09 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot –
Ken West talks Tuesday with customer Leslie Paulsen of Palatine in his recently opened Material Things Artisan Market on the Woodstock Square. West, a previous shop owner on the Square, opened the store in July after a long career in car sales.
(Kyle Grillot –
Ceramics by Bob Blue of Woodstock sit inside Material Things Artisan Market.
(Kyle Grillot –
Ken West's dog watches customers enter Material Things Artisan Market on the Woodstock square Tuesday. West, a previous shop owner on the square, opened the store in July after a long break from the square.

WOODSTOCK – After almost two decades away, Ken West is back on the Woodstock Square, where he always saw his career winding back around.

West this summer opened Material Things Artisan Market, 103 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock. Tucked in a corner of the historic Woodstock Square, the shop offers artisan creations from jewelry and pottery to household decorations.

The Woodstock resident had a store on the Square previously but had been in auto sales for the past 18 years.

“They had a shuffling of the deck and said, ‘See you later, Ken,’” West said. “And I said, ‘OK, I’m going to go open a shop,’ and I haven’t regretted it for a second. It’s been fun, and it’s working out good.”

West opened a stained glass shop in a second-floor space on the Square in 1979. There, he operated what he calls a “traditional stained glass shop.” He taught regular classes, sold supplies and went to art shows on the weekends.

But the long hours took their toll.

“I was wearing so many hats,” West said. “I was putting in 70 to 90 hours a week sometimes. ... Plus I was exposed to ground glass in the air, solder fumes and all that. It just hit me that I was doing two jobs at once, and it was too much.”

West craved set hours and landed in auto sales. But always envisioned getting another shop on the Square, and when he got out of the auto business, he found himself uninterested in getting back into it.

“Also, I thought the longer I wait, I might not do it,” he said.

West opened Material Things in July.

With the help of his wife, he was able to track down the root of some creations the two had purchased in the past. Many of those artisans now have work in Material Things.

He’s also found artisans by searching wholesale websites online, at art fairs, and through encounters with locals.

In all, the shop features about 48 artisans – about a dozen of which are local. The rest come from all over the country, and two are from Canada. That diversity helps keep a healthy mix of offerings in the shop, West said.

He also has put a focus on making sure there is a gift for just about anyone in the store, regardless of age or gender, West said. The prices range from a few bucks to a few hundred bucks. Most gifts are in the $25 to $125 range, West said.

The shop is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. On Thursday and Friday, the hours extend from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sunday, West keeps the store open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

West said he’s been happy with the business he’s generating.

“It’s a gamble until you open,” he said. “But the response and sales and comments have been really good. A lot of people are very excited about the shop.”

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