(First published in the May 3, 2018 issue of City Pages)
Cara Adams celebrates Wisconsin-made products at her soon-to-open Agora Local Makers Market in Stevens Point
Cara Adams displays some products she will sell at Agora Marketplace on Main Street in Stevens Point. Until Agora opens in June, Adams has been meeting with potential artisans at Emy J’s.
The Local in downtown Wausau earned a bit of national spotlight in December in a Wall Street Journal article on Wausau’s shopping scene, highlighting both the decline of the Wausau Center mall and the burgeoning strength of independent, locally owned retailers in the Wausau River District. The Local, a Third Street store selling Wisconsin-made products, got special mention as a sign of a new economic world: While online retail is replacing a lot of big box store shopping, the curated, hyper-local downtown experience has seen a resurgence.
This trend toward local is a phenomenon that Cara Adams is well aware of. That’s why this former publications and training coordinator for Hewlett Packard is creating Agora Local Makers Market in downtown Stevens Point. Set to open in June, Adam’s store will celebrate Wisconsin-crafted products, similar to the retail mission of The Local in Wausau.
Adams for the past several months has been meeting with potential sellers at the market, which will be located in downtown Stevens Point at 1008 Main St., next to Girls in Pearls.
Buying local is important to Adams and her husband Jerome Segura, an economist and former UW-Stevens Point educator-turned-consultant—they both tout the benefits of a locally sustainable economy. “I know the data, I see the ripple effects on the local economy [of buying local]” Adams says. “That’s where I’m hoping to be educational, when opening Agora.”
For example, according to the Andersonville (Chicago) Study of Retail Economics, a local business generates 70% more local economic activity per square foot than a big box retail store. Dollars spent locally also generate about 30% more revenue circulation in the community than if spent at a large, national retailer.
Agora will feature a variety of products—from jewelry, painting, wooden housewares, screen-printed apparel, and wood yard games to dried herbs and flowers. Adams wants her store to be a highly curated selection of eclectic items.
Adams moved to Stevens Point from Oklahoma with her husband. She says they fell in love with the community and aim to stay in the area. Adams and Segura started Numbers and Nature, which houses both Segura’s economics consulting business and Cara’s Kitchen and Cara’s Cannery, which sells items such as cookies, and jams from her urban garden. Agora is the next evolution of this business.
The name Agora comes from the ancient Greek word for marketplace—agoras were the central gathering places and community centers in Greek cities and towns.
It’s the sense of community that Adams hopes to bring and expand in downtown Stevens Point.