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What's Better Than Jam?

(Reblog from June 2018)

Hello! It’s been a while….I figured it’s time to start up the ole blog again.  This is a lengthy one, and probably the last of its kind. I plan on posting a lot of process and demo content going forward. But here’s a bit of history for you. If you’ve been here since the beginning, Thank You!  I started posting in 2009,  and decided to keep a lot of the old posts (deleted some, because man digital pics have come a long way). But it’s fun to go back and see how far we’ve come with those cruddy older posts.  It’s been quit a journey.

So what’s Better Than Jam? This question, when people ask, still makes me laugh. I usually just say “Right?!” with a smile.

Better Than Jam came into existence around 2006 (I believe?), and began with me, Karin Persan, taking my hand printed textiles and making stuff to sell after graduating college.  Accessories mostly, ie handbags, scarves, etc. while living in Chicago. (I had attended SAIC) I needed a name and started to ask people, “Would you rather be better than jam or better than toast?” playing off the old saying “better than jam on toast.” Most people preferred to be compare with toast, and I just did not, do not agree. Confusing? Yeah it doesn’t matter. The name still makes me grin and giggle.

Early 2010, a few years after moving to Brooklyn NYC, I opened up a brick and mortar at 1095 Flushing Ave inside the LOOM building.  It featured, not only the works of myself, but also the makers, crafters and designers I met while doing markets and craft shows around the city the first few years of living here.  I called it Better Than Jam Handmade Co-Op.  I figured if the shop didn’t work out, I could just make the space my studio and showroom and cut off the “handmade co-op.”

There were a handful of reasons I opened the shop. I was tired of the hustle of selling at events each weekend (later learning I’d still have to do them :-/ ), I had broken my shoulder and lifting all that gear was too much, I was turning 30 and questioning wtf I was doing with my life (as you do), I figured this was the “next step” of creating a line, and I had just met so many talented people and had a great line up to showcase in my neighborhood (which had no shops besides thrift stores)…. I liked it here and wanted to show us all off!

It was tough. No one was around. I would hold events every month and give away free booze to drive people over to this industrial area. The building was void of other shops at first, so I had to just wait for other business to start opening up. Which they eventually did, and I am so thankful for those early days making friends with other shop owners, customers, and neighborhood folk. I grew out of the first space and expanding to the 1,000 sq ft spot on the corner, refined the business, made more friends, hosted pop up shops on Governors Island and at DeKalb Market, sold at events here and there. Looking back, I can’t believe all that happened, and how much help from friends and family I received (thank you!) I was at the Loom until 2015. It was rough but had its charm and I learned a lot. Though tough, it was sort of dreamy in its crudeness.

Towards the end of my time there, I expected to close up and find something else to do. But thanks to my friends at Tomahawk salon and Pine Box I was given the opportunity to create my dream space.

20 Grattan St was an 4500 sq ft old abandoned warehouse that used to store coffins (fun fact) for the casket manufacturer on this block. Very raw but with a fresh roof and second floor since there hadn’t been one for years. The landlords we’re finishing the second floor how I would like it, cleaning and painting so I can start immediately start building how I wanted, installing all the things we would need for a print studio, and offered a really long lease when no one in NYC seemed to be doing so. I had to grab the deal or it would just pass me by and feared never raise its head again.

So here I am. Grand Re-opening Halloween 2015. Better Than Jam’s STORE & STUDIO. The dream.

If you know me that will seem like sarcasm. But really! It is! It’s not easy, and I am always tired these days, but this is the space I have dreamed of creating. A makers haven. The storefront to showcase the work of our creative community along with the communal workspace to produce and teach our skills to a growing network of makers. And it is growing.

I love going back in these posts when I feel things are moving too slowly. Give myself a pep talk. Look what you’ve done! Look how many people have helped you along the way! There are so many possibilities for the future!

To everyone that has sold here, shopped here, learned here, created here so far…THANK YOU. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

 (Since May 2020, the space has downsized and moved to 10 Grattan St. and is the Better Than Jam showroom and studio space only.)

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