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Story Behind the Storefront: Idaho Mercantile Co.

Shopping locally has never been easier than it is today. Experiencing the struggle of small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, communities all across the United States began to band together in person and online to put their money towards organizations that make a difference. 

 Tara Dial, the owner and creator of Idaho Mercantile Company, has run her own small business since 2010, crafting her own puzzles, signs and souvenirs in Austin, Texas. Traveling for shows to display her handiwork, Dial met several other small business owners and crafters, and it gave her a passion for the community and connection they all share. 

“Once I moved back to Idaho and started our company, it wasn’t just about supporting local, even though it’s in our title,” Dial said. “I wanted to support all of our handmade friends that supported us through this last decade, and we could do that with our physical shop.”

Dial knew she could use her retail experience to open her own storefront and have a space for these handmade goods. With her family living in Garden City, Idaho, Dial was able to start this process by founding Little Studio Collective in 2020. The studio created a place where Dial could dream up and produce her goods, while giving the same opportunities to other small businesses in the area. 

In 2021, Dial met Kris Garman, the owner of Oakes Brothers at Indian Creek Plaza, and knew that Caldwell was the home for Idaho Mercantile Company. 

“I fell in love with Kris’ vision and the space at Oakes Brothers,” Dial said. “We’ve been open just over a year, and the majority of our products are local goods, but we also bring in small-batch pieces from all over the United States.”

Throughout the last year, Dial has been able to meet local producers and grow her small business community within the Caldwell area. Her passion for historical, small-town America and curating comfortable atmospheres helped her fit right in with the other businesses in Oakes Brothers and on the Indian Creek Plaza. 

“I absolutely adore the community here in Caldwell,” Dial explained. “Everyone has been behind our business 100%, from the other businesses, to the people we meet on the plaza, and the owners at Oakes Brothers. It has just been truly wonderful.” 

With a business model that is so community-oriented, it’s easy to see why Idaho Mercantile Company fit right into the Caldwell family. The company’s mission is to lead the shop local movement in Canyon County by introducing the community to affordable, high quality, artisan goods. 

“I strive to bring something a little different,” Dial said. “We support several of the local farmers here like Steele Legacy Honey, Molly’s Mills, and other vendors local to the Caldwell and Nampa area. We also work with local carpenters to bring in some of our specialty items. We’re just trying to bring something that supports not only our family, but also other local families at an affordable price.”

As they continue to get situated and plugged into the local community, Idaho Mercantile Company is excited to begin featuring more local artists to help give them a launching point for their business. 

“Even this last year we’ve shifted to finding and discovering more local artists,” Dial said. “We want to support them as their businesses grow and give them a foundation for that, while allowing ourselves to sell more items local to Caldwell.”

Dial is planning to feature these local artists in a window display in her shop, showcasing their work to everyone who passes or stops in their store. These displays will be paired with a blog post on the Idaho Mercantile Co. website to give customers more insight to the lives of the featured artists. 

So, the next time you’re looking for the perfect present, some new decorations, or simply need a bit of retail therapy, stop by Idaho Mercantile Company and know the story behind the storefront.

 

Megan Williams

All photos are courtesy of Idaho Mercantile Co.'s website

S’mores, along with their gooey goodness, are a catalyst for nostalgia. Most people remember sitting by a campfire with family and friends in the summer, laughing, telling stories and trying to finish your marshmallow sandwich before it drips down your wrist. 

For the Nelson family, marshmallows are not only nostalgic, they’re the family business. Founders and owners of one of the first gourmet marshmallow companies in the United States, the Nelsons understand the joy of those little white fluffy snacks. Creekside Mallow was born from the imagination of the Nelsons 13-year-old daughter, Grace. 

“When my daughter graduated eighth grade, she had her friends over for a sleepover and they were roasting marshmallows in the backyard,” Russ Nelson explained. “My wife had bought all the extra goodies, not just your classic Hershey bars and marshmallows. Grace ran into the house and told us that we should start a s’more store.”

After a few conversations, the Nelsons started by trying to find a really good marshmallow. However, they soon discovered that gourmet marshmallows were not really available anywhere, so Grace and her mom decided to create their own recipe.

Testing popular formulas online for a whole year, the Nelsons created their own recipe by combining their favorite ingredients and practices from each trial and error. With a delectable marshmallow, the Nelsons created a catering bar that was perfect for weddings, graduations and all types of gatherings. 

“We quickly got hired to do one event, and then another, and another, and we were quickly doing weddings and events all the time,” Russ said. “We ended up looking for packaging since this was taking off, and my wife was introduced to the Small Business Development Center through Boise State University.” 

Through this program, the Nelsons were assigned a mentor to help grow and guide their business. Believing their product was better suited for the food business and not the event world, their mentor helped them create packaging to sell their marshmallows on storefront shelves. 

Creekside Mallow attended the Buy Idaho Capitol Show in Boise, where small businesses set up a booth in the capitol building and meet with buyers and distributors. A representative from Albertsons fell in love with their product and decided to put their marshmallows on the shelves in the new downtown Boise location. 

“All of a sudden we had to figure out how to create universal product codes and the whole nine yards,” Russ said. “It was pretty exciting; we were going to be in a real, bonafide grocery store.”

Working out of the back of a yogurt shop, the Nelsons realized they needed to have their own commercial kitchen in order to keep up with the demand and support they were receiving from the local community and online orders. Living in Caldwell, the family struggled to find a place that fit their needs. 

“I can’t tell you how many places I called that were going to charge $10,000 just to get water to the building,” Russ explained. “I don’t even know why, but I was driving through downtown Caldwell one day and saw a building with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it, and there was a pipe sticking out of the building, so I knew they had water. It had been a barber shop, so we just had to pay to get a kitchen built once we bought the space.” 

With a physical location, Creekside Mallow had the space to produce enough marshmallows to keep their product stocked on shelves. However, they quickly outgrew the space as their marshmallows were being sold in stores across the United States. 

Purchasing a building down the street, the Nelsons turned their original kitchen into a retail location, allowing customers to come purchase and learn about Creekside Mallow, straight from the source. 

“We’ve had people from New York come and specifically visit our store because they love our product,” Russ described. “We’re drawing people to the area with our marshmallows, and as we continue to grow, our reach is just going to become even bigger.” 

With sales in all 50 states and their product on shelves in hundreds of stores across the country, Creekside Mallow is bringing attention to the Treasure Valley and all it has to offer. Already outgrowing their Caldwell facilities, the Nelsons are looking to purchase another production facility. 

This expansion opens the door for exciting transformations to their current space. With hopes of creating a backyard patio where guests can enjoy marshmallows next to Indian Creek, Creekside Mallow is simply working on staging their growth in order to keep up with demand while not biting off more than they can chew. 

“We’re cranking out nearly a million dollars worth of marshmallows and sending them all over the United States from our downtown Caldwell facility,” Russ explained. “People come in the store, buy our bags, and tell us they’re shipping them to friends in Australia and all across the world; it’s a very cool time.”

So the next time your nostalgia kicks in and you need to satisfy a craving for something sweet, stop by Creekside Mallow for a gourmet marshmallow, and know the story behind the storefront. 

All photos were taken from Creekside Mallow Co.'s Facebook.

Megan Williams

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