An arts-focused Oak Park nonprofit is hosting its annual craft fair this Sunday, the biggest moneymaker of the year. And a member of the Oak Park Women’s Exchange says if the event isn’t a rousing success, they may need to look at closing their long-time South Oak Park Avenue storefront.
The women’s exchange has been running a craft store since 1974. It has been at 831 S. Oak Park Ave. for the past 30 years. There, they sell merchandise from local crafters, with the exchange taking 25 percent of the proceeds.
Member Deanne Alexander says the nonprofit has fallen on hard times. Fewer crafters are participating in the exchange because of the weak economy, expenses are up and competition is fierce from foreign markets.
“When people walk into a dollar store and they get some crocheted angel for a dollar, and you have some 80-year-old woman that takes them four hours to make it, you can’t compete with that foreign competition,” Alexander said.
The exchange sustains itself through membership fees and sales at the store, but the biggest supporter is the annual arts and crafts fair. About 25 percent of their annual revenues come from the event.
“If it’s a bad show, the store cannot survive,” Alexander said.
The exchange held an emergency meeting about two weeks ago to discuss ways to help solve the financial problems. They ended up slashing some expenses, such as advertising, and tweaked the percentages so the nonprofit now gets 30 percent of every sale.
In the near term, Alexander said, they’re depending on the arts and crafts fair, which is Nov. 7 at Oak Park and River Forest High School from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.