Handmade birdhouses, wooden decorations and cutting boards are specialties of the Occupy Madison Village store.
Birdhouses, rolling pins and other handcrafted goods are arranged helter-skelter on long shelves at the retail shop at the Occupy Madison Village. The walls are a bright turquoise, with yellow trim around the windows and doors. A glass display case filled with beaded jewelry sits in one corner. The store’s tablet “cash register” sits on top next to stickers and postcards. Expect to hear the buzz of a circular saw. Most of the products here are made by volunteers or residents of the eco-village in an adjacent workshop. That’s also where you’ll likely find the shopkeeper. Don’t be afraid to poke your head in and say hello.
“Cutting boards. Leaf presses. Bat houses. Coasters. Game boards. Little twig tree decorations that hang on windows, doors or whatever. Lots of stuff in the shape of Wisconsin,” says Gene Cox, a resident of the tiny-house community at 304 N. Third St. “Sales of soap holders seem to have picked up lately. We are building our inventory back up after the busy period before the holidays.”
One of Occupy Madison’s specialties is custom-made Little Free Libraries. They recently received a commission to build one for UW Health’s pediatric clinic. The village is also beginning to prepare seedlings for its annual spring plant sale. It’s all part of the nonprofit’s continuing effort to make the village of formerly homeless individuals self-sustaining.
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“Sales at the store pay the mortgage, electricity and water bills [for the village]. All our overhead,” says Cox. “Last year we were fully self-sustaining.”
Robert Bloch is one of a dozen regular volunteers at Occupy Madison. He has a shift as the workshop manager but will also check out customers if needed.
“I like to come in and work with the people here. It’s a good atmosphere,” says Bloch. “I like that we are giving back and actually making things.”
The retail store also acts a welcome center for the village. Cox says Occupy Madison has become a mecca for people interested in eco-villages or building their own tiny houses.
“We get folks from other cities and even other states who hear about what we are doing and want to learn more,” says Cox. “People are very interested in our cooperative structure and how we got approval from the city. They sometimes pick up an item at the store while they’re here. But anyone here would be happy just to spread the word.”
Occupy Madison Store
304 N. Third St., 608-305-4707, occupymadisoninc.com, 5:30-9:30 pm Mon.-Fri., 11 am-3 pm Sat., 3-7 pm Sun.