dave melanie stewart 100913Melanie and Dave Stewart in their new art gallery/retail store, Handmade Haven. Below, t-shirts repurposed as skirts. (Click to enlarge)


homemade 1 100913The world is awash in mass-produced sameness. Do we really need any more?

A month-old shop on River Road in Fair Haven posits an alternative. Handmade Haven was conceived as an “artisans’ and craftsmens’ retail gallery,” says Melanie Stewart, who owns the business with her husband, Dave.

Everything on its tables and walls is not only handmade, but produced locally, they say.

Think of it as “kind of an Etsy on Main Street,” Melanie tells redbankgreen, referring to the online market for craftspeople and other makers. “We give them a Main Street platform for their work.”

homemade 2 100913The shop is is in a former house said to be 250 years old. (Click to enlarge)

On those tables are wreaths Melanie makes from locally found twigs; handmade soaps; jewelry; stained-glass pieces; paintings, and more. Edgy, traditional – all points of view can find a place here, Melanie said.

The Stewarts, both 40, have been married 12 years, have two children and live in town. They’re local: she’s from Red Bank, and he’s from Red Bank and Rumson. They’ve spent most of their adult lives doing creative work – for themselves for interior design clients and others. They painted the Yankee Stadium frieze at Murphy’s Tavern, the former speakeasy in Rumson. Dave works in contracting on the side.

The space also features an instructional aspect, with a room for children’s art classes and “make and take” parties. It’s also available for ladies’s nights out for such endeavors as wreath-making.

Is there enough demand for handmade work to sustain a retail business? Melanie thinks there’s enough to support a chain of such stores, and sees Handmade Haven as the flagship of such an endeavor.

“I don’t see anything as a challenge,” she says. “We live our lives to have a positive outlook.”

Handmade Haven plans a meet-the-artist event with Juan Ocampo, a Colombian painter – and social studies teacher at Red Bank Catholic – on December 7.