LA CRESCENT, Min. (WLAX/WEUX) – If you Make it, they will come.
Meet Allie Benish and Kayla Johnson. Benish is the brains and brawn behind A Blonde and A Bobbin and Current Clothing Company. Johnson is the multi-talented Maestro behind Johnson Livings. Together they are the unstoppable force behind the Great River Makers Market (GRMM) in La Crescent. However, none of that can give you a full picture of these highly capable and impressive women. Through nothing more than being themselves and working the only way they know how, they are growing successful businesses, strengthening the communities they live and work in, and providing tangible examples of how to do all of it with grace and poise.
Benish says she got bored during the pandemic, bought a sewing machine that was on clearance and started making scrunchies for herself. One day, a co-worker asked if Allie could make one for her and Benish said “Yup.” That woman posted about her new scrunchie on Facebook, and that led to more people asking and then, poof, A Blonde and A Bobbin was born.
Johnson says her start was much the same. She started making things for herself and that trickled into a business that now includes a storefront in La Crescent. However, she adds, “I think it’s also the satisfaction you get from watching people get really excited to get something you made them. My dad is like that too. He likes to feed people and see the look on their face. I am the same. To see someone say, ‘You made that?’” And then she smiles this big smile that shows immense warmth and pride, very slightly nods her head and whispers, “Yeah. I made that.”
With their businesses born, they ventured out into the Makers Market world. They started to notice that there wasn’t much close to home. As Benish puts it, “We would schlep our stuff to events all over the Wisconsin side of the river, and at one of the markets we were like, ‘There’s nothing like this in La Crescent. It would be really cool to do something like this in La Crescent’ and then it just kind of went from there.”
What she means is, The Great River Makers Market went from there. They Made it happen.
They wanted their event to be indoors because, as Benish says with a giggle, “We’ve been rained on… snowed on… winded on…” so, they contacted the La Crescent Event Center. Which, they say, has been a dream in and of itself. Both of the women say working with Debbie Hosch and her team at the La Crescent Area Event Center has been easy, flexible, and nothing short of outstanding. On top of that, they have been quick to afford amenities to GRMM that they weren’t expecting. Things like being flexible with load in times, allowances of changes to original plans and keeping the Swing Bridge Pub open during GRMM.
The idea was starting to flesh itself out. They had the place, they had the idea, now they needed other Makers. And here is where the attention to detail that a Maker must possess comes in handy for these two. Benish says, “We try to mix it up each time. So, it’s different each time. With a town as small as La Crescent we don’t want people thinking that ‘Oh, I went last time. It’s just the same thing’. We don’t it to be the same thing every time.” Johnson adds, “And we are kind of exclusive… I guess… in that if we get 15 earring makers to apply, we are going to only take, like, two because we want them to have good sales and not get lost in the crowd.”
And, with that, they Made a Happening.
They care, so much, about what they are doing that they want everyone involved to be as successful as they can be. That includes the Makers and what they can sell at the event, the event center and the presentation they are making to the public, and, finally, the public and how enjoyable of a time they have while attending this market. All of that was because of these two incredibly capable, talented, and impressive women.
There is one more thing that left an impression on me. I was there to talk about their event and their businesses. I think I can count on one hand the number of times they said either the names of their own businesses or the name of the event, Great River Makers Market. However, they did mention Ladybug Photography with Bekky Murphy, 1924 Custom Soapery, Hunter Gatherer Grazing Boards, and others that live and breathe in the Maker’s world. A quick peek at the GRMM Instagram page shows hundreds of posts and 3/4s of them are about people and businesses not named or owned by Allie or Kayla.
What I mean is, they are also Making a community.
And that is where the magic lies in them both. None of what they do is forced or fake or a presentation. None of what they do is a scheme or a game. None of what they do is disingenuous. They are Makers (capital M intended) because that is simply what they do. They Make things. And they make things that matter. Benish has begun making hair accessories out of family pieces. She has made baptismal accessories out of a grandmother’s wedding dress. Johnson has made gifts for people asking to give to friends they are asking to be Godparents. And they made the Great River Maker’s Market in La Crescent. You don’t want to miss it.
Applications for the 2023 Holiday Great River Makers Market are now open. The event itself will happen on December 9th, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the La Crescent Event Center. There are 3 GRMMs on the schedule for this coming year. Keep your eyes and ears open. Though, I promise it won’t be the last time you hear of Allie Benish or Kayla Johnson.
If you Make it, they will come.