Meet the Owner(s): Karen Tholen & Amanda Tholen Long of mash handmade.
Karen and Amanda run one of my favorite shops in town. Every time I visit mash, there’s something new to discover and delight in. These ladies have worked hard to curate their shop and make a space that feels inviting, crafty and creative. I won’t give away too much of their backstory - I’ll let them tell you themselves.
When/why did you start your business?
Karen: When Amanda was in college we started talking about it as a possibility someday. We knew we could work together & that it had to be something creative. I always liked to buy student art for our home (students always need money, I like to decorate) so finding independent artists & giving them a place to sell their goods + giving out of town artists a way to get their stuff into the midwest was a natural progression from that. We put together our business plan, contacted all the artists we had met along the way, and opened on October 17, 2009.
What’s the best thing about owning a local business?
Karen: Being your own boss, the interesting people you meet, being able to tell a customer the backstory of the item they’re purchasing, figuring it out and tweaking along the way, having your own little space to spend the day in.
Amanda: I totally agree, and will add that it’s a great way to have a finger on the pulse of the city. There are so many tiny places like ours, and I think being here helps us to be more aware of those businesses, to learn about them, to support what they do, and to really be able to get into conversations about what work and what doesn’t. We also have a handful of regular customers at the shoppe that just make our day when they walk in the door.
Why did you choose to open your store in Westport?
Karen: We knew we had to be in this general area to do what we wanted to do. Our landlords here at Westport 39 had recently bought & renovated this building and they had a small open space. They’re wonderful, really care about their building & tenants and we’ve all grown together here. It’s terrific.
What’s your most popular product?
Karen: Owly shadow puppets. Their maker has been with us since the day we opened the shop & they never get old. mash is the only place in Kansas City that carries them.
What’s your favorite local business (besides yours)?
Karen: River Market Antiques & for quick take-out it’s Johnny’s Barbeque in Mission. I didn’t inherit that love-of-cooking gene.
Amanda: just one? my husband and i have no reason to ever eat or drink anything less than stellar when there are places like broadway cafe, you say tomato, potpie, one more cup, waldo pizza, manifesto, the foundry, thai orchid, ruchi…
What do people say about your business?
Karen: That it’s like walking into an etsy shop. We love to hear that.
Amanda: Also that it feels good in here and is inspiring … it’s a great thing to watch wonder and joy skip across people’s faces as they move about the shoppe.
What would you do if you didn’t own this store/what are your other passions?
K: I’ve managed the Baskin Robbins in Mission for 10 years & I still do that 3 days a week. It’s a good workout & people are always in a good mood when they’re getting ice cream. I’m a pretty busy gal, but if I was at home more my gardens would look a lot better.
A: that’s a tough one, since i’m doing exactly what i’ve always wanted to do. making things is what i’m good at, so i suppose if i weren’t doing that for mash i’d be doing it somewhere else.
List Your Favorite:
K: Castle & anything on HGTV
A: weeds, downton abbey
K: Ben Folds Five—I’m always the oldest one at their concerts
A: ditto, ben folds. and josh ritter. and regina spektor. anyone that can tell a great story, really…
K: anything at Pot Pie
A: scallops and bread pudding @ potpie
K: Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI—brats, beer, cheese curds & bands!
A: Marfa, Texas
K: Bud Light
A: boulevard single wide ipa
K: I’ve loved to sew since I was a little girl.
A: making stuff
Kansas City event:
K: My husband & I are all over the place. If it interests us, we’ll go. I do love Royals baseball, especially Friday nights when they have fireworks.
A: we had a ball at the middle of the map festival and are excited to watch it grow and change in the coming years (fingers crossed!)