First Baptist Church Emporium
Where: First Baptist Church Banquet Hall, 751 Green Street, Gainesville
When: 10 a.m to 6 p.m Oct. 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct 13More info: Website
Jan Hensley has been helping to do some good for 11 years through the First Baptist Church’s Emporium.
The shopping event that started with just 30 vendors now has more than 70 and draws around 2,500 visitors each year — all supporting a good cause.
“This is just a lot of fun,” said Hensley, a member of the church who helps lead the Heart & Hands Bakery. “And it’s just good for the beneficiary every year.”
The 11th-annual Emporium, taking place 10 a.m to 6 p.m Oct. 12 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct 13 at the banquet hall behind First Baptist Church on Green Street, helps get Gainesville covered for Christmas shopping. There’s jewelry, children's clothes, essential oils, olive oils, scarves and more. And for Hensley, guests can’t forget about the cakes. Tickets are $5.
This year’s beneficiary is For Her Glory, a Gainesville-based organization that helps provide wigs and other care to women and families dealing with cancer.
Heart & Hands has the first spot as soon as visitors walk in the door. Its tables are lined with sweets: cakes, cookies, cupcakes and even peanut brittle. Each of the items are donated to the bakery by members of the church and businesses from around Gainesville so all of the proceeds can go back to For Her Glory. Hensley said it usually sells out.
“Last year we made $7,270 in just two days,” Hensley said. “We have a good reputation and we have a reputation for homemade baked goods.”
Plenty of other vendors come back year after year — just like the bakery. Knitter Margie Smith is in her sixth year at Emporium and comes back each year because “the people are so nice.”
“When I retired from Delta, I needed something to do, so I just decided I could do this,” said Smith, owner of Not Your Nana’s Knitting. “I was knitting as a child and I decided to pick it back up.”
She knits scarves and shawls out of yarn and ribbon. At Emporium, scarves will sell for $25 to $35 depending on the style, while shawls will be $35.
Smith prefers to set up shop at shows like Emporium because she doesn’t enjoy selling — or buying — online. She said it’s hard to trust the quality of items when she can’t touch them, and even smell them, for herself.
But not everyone is a mainstay at the event. Mary Jane Ables, owner of Mary Jane’s Embroidery, is going into her first year at the event. She can embroider just about anything: children’s clothes, dish towels and even earrings. She said her favorite items are the little shirts she’s made for Christmas elves.
“I love making beautiful stuff,” Ables said. “I like creative stuff. I’m loving being retired and being at home and being able to do this.”
She doesn’t do any work online, either. Everything she sells goes to neighbors and friends. She’s hoping being at Emporium will get the word out about her cottage-industry business.
As the event has grown, more and more money has been donated to charities in Gainesville. That’s one of the reasons many of the vendors do it in the first place. And that’s why organizers of the event hope it’s around for many years to come.
“It’s our way of giving back to our community in a fashion that will serve others,” said Jenny Burns, staff representative for the event. “And we tend to pick the smaller, lesser known beneficiaries. They not only get the support that we offer, but the publicity that could bring something that the people in the community may not even know is a resource.”