Heather Kern, MADE by Millworks
Written by Lisa Khiev
It is no doubt that Long Beach is beginning to grow into a cultural and tourist oasis. With so much diversity, the amazing food scene, and new and exciting events being held in the city, it is no wonder many people flock from all over.
A popular store front right in the heart of Downtown became the perfect stop for locals and visitors alike. That store front is MADE by Millworks. Heather Kern, a Dream Facilitator for MADE sheds light on the humble beginnings of the store / art gallery and how this hub is an important aspect for a Long Beach small business owner.
To those who may not know you, can you inform us on who you are and how MADE came to be? When did your passion begin and how did it tie into MADE being a storefront for consumers?
My name is Heather Kern, I am the Executive Director at MADE by Millworks, AKA the Dream Facilitator. In 2012, I launched a Facebook Page that was dedicated to the counterculture in Long Beach, a page that would promote local businesses, events, and general news. People started noticing the page and from that, I met a variety of local movers and shakers including Michelle Molina. When I took a job with Localism In the Fall of 2014, I mentioned that I had created local gift baskets for holiday gifts the previous Christmas, that I had driven around town to get local goods including a jar of Mole from Sliced and Diced, chocolate from Anandamide, wine from Long Beach resident owned vineyard at Wine Country, and how cool would it be if there was one place where someone could go to buy all of these local goods. That’s when they told me they were going to open a local goods pop up holiday shop and asked if I would be the manager. I used my knowledge, resources and enthusiasm to get about 15 local brands in the store for the opening of MADE on Black Friday 2014. The store continued to take on more brands and expand to fill most of the 4,000 square foot space. In 2016, the lease with Localism was ending and the store was facing closure until Millworks (owned by Michelle Molina) came in and started a new lease. Since then MADE has grown exponentially with multiple events on a regular basis, 2 dedicated art galleries, a pop up restaurant and we just keep evolving.
What makes MADE MADE?
It’s all about the people. MADE does not exist without the over 100 local brands, makers, artisans, writers and artists that we feature. The sheer volume of local talent allows the store to be hyper local exclusively featuring brands within 25 miles of the store, with about 90% of them from right here in Long Beach. MADE is not only a retail shop, but also an art gallery and event space. We have large scale permanent art installations, 2 rotating art galleries, staff pick guides for out of town visitors that helps them shop, eat and drink like a local, guided mural bike tours that meet and depart twice a month from MADE, community events, private events, and an incubator for growing brands. At least 6 brands that were once for sale at MADE have gone on to open their own brick and mortar businesses, including The Pie Bar, Black Ring Coffee, Saints and Sinners, Romeo Chocolates, Wide Eyes Open Palms and Long Beach Creamery. We have some owners of local brands that have been able to quit their day jobs to pursue running their brands full time. This is where the title Dream Facilitator comes in to play. A title given to me by my friend and fellow dream facilitator Alyssandra Nighswonger. Everyday, people who make something, have a brand, write, paint, sculpt .. you name it, come into the store asking how to have their works featured here.
As a woman entrepreneur, what are some challenges that you face?
I can’t say that I have faced many challenges directly. Being involved in your community opens doors for you regardless of gender. You just have to be bold enough to walk through them and ask for help if you can’t quite do it on your own. I work for and surround myself with inspiring women. I take notes when I am around them, I listen to their experiences and share my own.
What is your relationship to Art?
It’s all around me, life is art. Everything is art if you take the time to tilt your head, tilt your mind, find the angle … it will reveal itself to you. My personal relationship with art is as an admirer and now as an advocate. At MADE we have such a large physical space that with both Michelle’s (Molina) and my own passion for art, it was a no brainer to dedicate a space to an art gallery with rotating exhibits. Since 2016, we’ve had over 15 art exhibits and have recently expanded to dedicate another space to be a community art gallery which will allow us to get even more artists a shot at a gallery show. It’s extremely important to me to continue to work hard to get low brow and sub culture art and artists on exhibit in Long Beach.
Tell us about Live After 5. How did it come to be?
Live After 5 is a monthly event created and sponsored by the Downtown Long Beach Alliance. It started a few years ago and at the fundamental level has always been about getting people out exploring downtown by providing free live music in a variety of creative ways and spaces. I have been curating the recent vision of Live After 5 since March. The current direction of this monthly event is to feature several free live music activations throughout downtown at various businesses to motivate people to visit all of downtown and includes a free trolley service to help attendees get to all of the locations. Live After 5 occurs on the Third Thursdays monthly from 5pm-9pm.
Visit MADE at Pine and 3rd!