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Crafty location near Bass Pro benefits Ozark Treasures

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by Melissa Wilson

SBJ Staff

Ozark Treasures Handcrafts opened May 1 in the Sunshine Corners Shopping Center across from Bass Pro Shops at the corner of Campbell and Sunshine in the space that formerly housed Ramey's grocery store and, more recently, Discount Outlet.

Co-owners Jack Webster III and his wife, Crystal, said they and their partner in the mall, Tony Iaguessa, also considered locations in north Springfield, but the site closest to Bass Pro was too good to pass up.

"We looked around, and weren't very excited about any of the places ... the buildings were expensive, and the locations weren't that great. We found one more expensive building this one. But it turned out to be across the street from a large tourist attraction, so we felt it was a worthwhile gamble to see if we could attract people who like crafts from the crowd that's coming through this area," Jack Webster said.

Jack Webster, whose family owns Webster Oil, has a background in marketing, real estate and property management. Crystal Webster has a background in customer service, both retail and restaurant.

The Websters credit Iaguessa, who has an extensive background in accounting software design and set-up, with the idea to open a craft mall.

"Tony was familiar with several successful craft malls in Branson, having designed and set up their software, and he came to me last fall and said he wanted to have his own," Jack Webster said.

Iaguessa's accounting software for Ozark Treasures and other craft malls includes the ability to track sales by each booth, as well as by each artist's number.

The Ozark Treasures accounting system can also track the dates, times and descriptions of purchases, which will prevent accidental or intentional switching of tags on the crafts, according to literature provided by Ozark Treasures.

Iaguessa is also responsible for Ozark Treasures' security system, which includes video surveillance in the 22,000-square-foot facility.

Ozark Treasures rents booths to the artists and takes a percentage of what the crafts sell for to cover its overhead costs, such as staffing the craft mall and the accounting and security systems.

Many of the artists at Ozark Treasures simply want to earn back their overhead, and are not concerned with profiting from their crafts, Crystal Webster said.

"Many artists, especially older people, make their handcrafts as a hobby, and just want to get out of them what they put in," she said.

Ozark Treasures' merchandise is chosen by Crystal Webster, who said she chooses the crafts with the stipulation that they are handmade.

"People bring in samples, and we see if their crafts fit in with what we're trying to do here," she said. Jack Webster added that some of the items at Ozark Treasures may have originally been manufactured, but have been reworked as crafts.

Needlework, stained glass, finished and unfinished woodcrafts, stone castings, pottery, paintings, clothing and floral arrangements are examples of the crafts sold at Ozark Treasures.

"Each piece is unique. We are proud to be fostering the spirit of independence by helping crafters succeed. We want to take a step away from the avalanche of mass-produced goods that finds its way into our lives," Jack Webster said in a press release.

The Websters said they represent local artists as much as possible, but there are some artists from other states who ship their crafts to sell at the craft mall, as well.

The Websters are working with bus-tour operators to coordinate travel stops at the craft mall.

Jack Webster said the large Sunshine Corners Shopping Center parking lot and break room for bus drivers are perfect for bus tours.

Ozark Treasures also has a Web site, at

www.ozarktreasures.com

which will allow customers to see pictures of merchandise and make on-line purchases.

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