Born out of a vision to create an online store selling everyday usable goods to the public while encouraging recycling of art and craft supplies. “Our idea is to celebrate diversity and encourage the creation of upcycled art”.
The boutique space is located on University in the Spokane Valley. It is currently an online thrift and gift shop which offers upcycled, new, and vintage items. While most products are shipped, local customers seem to enjoy coming to pick up their items and learning about Country Blue. There are many unique objects to satisfy even the most budget-conscious customers.
While the online boutique itself does not accommodate foot traffic at the present time, the other part, suite 104, is open to the public every weekday from eleven a.m. to four p.m. and serves a much bigger purpose. That purpose is to offer a creative space for local artists to congregate, create, share ideas, and to sell their art.
“The idea behind Country Blue Mercantile was born out of the need to celebrate art and to sell items to sustain a living at the same time,” said Amanda Davisson, owner of Country Blue Mercantile. When forming the business idea, I wanted to be able to sell anything a mercantile store could and so there wasn’t a certain “niche.”
As a method of stress relief from her medical profession during Covid, Davisson started researching and collecting art. She went to thrift stores, online auctions, and vendor markets looking for items for her home collection. “I enjoy metal art and anything unusual, fiber art, abstract, very unique pieces,” said Davisson.
Davisson said she recently decided to sell most of her art collection to make room at the office and to raise funds for the local artists she now promotes. “It truly is like God put me here,” she said. She said as she was moving into her new office, an artist by the name of Jerry was outside sitting on the sidewalk. “I waved a few times and eventually said hello in passing and then after that next time, struck up a conversation.” Davisson said.
Jerry is a neurodivergent artist who has been living in Spokane since the age of 15. Jerusalem Vahslovik or “Jerry” as he likes to be called, considers himself a speculative artist and he claims to be a “channeler, meaning he doesn’t take credit for his paintings “The universe and other people work through me, like a receiver that hasn’t fully tapped into it yet. I just go for the ride” he said.
Vahslovik walks to the studio every day to create his art and socialize in the Country Blue Mercantile space. Davisson enjoys giving Jerry and other local artists a place to gather, create and show their unique art in. Her desire is not driven by a profit on selling her boutique items, but the innate need to give her talented friends a place to create art. She reaches out to the community to locate donatable art supplies and personally funds supplies that otherwise cannot obtained by the artist.
Davisson and her personal assistant, Ezekiel Y. D. Schmitt are essentially running the business by themselves. Schmitt’s duties include website management, product listing, customer service, research, and other administrative tasks as assigned.
Schmitt, who is a surrealist artist, recalled meeting Davisson at a local art show at M.A.D. Co Lab Studios while he and Jerusalem were showing their art at an event. Regarding Schmitt’s surrealist art, “The main goal of my art is to take human experience and turn it into dreamy, symbolic representations of how we live, act, and perceive the universe, God, and ourselves, “said Schmitt.
A former Amazon employee, Schmitt said “I felt in my gut that I needed to quit so I left Amazon with no idea what I was going to do for money.” He said he posted on Facebook that he was seeking new employment and that is when Davisson said she could use his help. He said he accepted her offer and never looked back. “I feel like a kid again, the world feels new and exciting with wonder around every corner, she is so wonderful to work with and always has some new adventure to go on” Schmitt said of Davisson.
Motivated by the desire to help others succeed and regain quality of life enrichment activities, Davisson has put her life savings into this venture and sees it growing more interest every day. Davisson, a veteran Activity Director in her early career, felt a natural reoccurring skill “To help Jerry with an art space and the needed supplies to begin. “To see Jerry as an active engaged artist is a true regained Quality Of Life Activity that he had not used in a long time” Davisson said.
Jerry said he is very thankful to have Amanda in his life as well, “Happiness, inspired and thankful for Amanda, she saved my life” said Vahslovik. Vahslovik said he is very thankful he has found a community of like-minded artists to share a creative and collaborative space with. He mentioned he has a great relationship with Davisson, Schmitt, and a cubist artist by the name of Sam White.
Not only is Davisson giving local artists like Jerry and Sam a common creative space, she will also be offering the opportunity for the public to purchase local art as well. Artists are welcome to come visit, socialize, watch, and create. “Country Blue is trying to create a space where neurodivergent people can have the opportunity to express themselves through ART and creation” Schmitt said.
Gallery patrons can contribute to this wonderful cause by purchasing art or goods directly from the online store at www.country-blue.com or from their gallery boutique at 112 N University, Ste 104 Spokane Valley, WA 99206. Any artist that would like to display their work will need to reach out to Country Blue to inquire and bring their sample pieces if available.
Davisson said, “We will do the work while the artists focus on creation as so many times artists say to her that they just want to create, not do all the other stuff involved in art sales.” Thanks to Davisson, these artists will have the space and opportunity to do what they love. She also hopes to find a larger space in the future as this is a fast-growing operation and more artists are showing interest in participating.