Mari Davis at The Beehive.

Good music, good vibes, and carefully sourced handmade goods. Those are the founding principles of the Beehive, Atlanta’s oldest boutique collective offering apparel, housewares, jewelry, consumables, art, and more.

Owned by Malene Davis and managed by her sister, Mari Davis, the shop is stocked with unique goods made by independent, mostly local, handmade designers. Each designer manages their own displays within the store and there is a strong focus on entrepreneurship. There’s something for everyone with items starting at just $1 so that no one feels out of place when shopping here. The sisters want handmade goods to be accessible, not exclusive. 

 Originally founded in 2004, the concept went by the name of Beehive Co-op and operated out of a small shotgun style storefront in Buckhead. Malene and Mari had started their own independent jewelry line, and when Malene began selling at the Co-op, she was intrigued by the concept and took an interest in the business. In 2010, she had the opportunity to purchase the assets, put her own spin on the concept, and opened the Beehive in its current 2,600 square foot space at the Edgewood Retail District. The shop’s central location ensures that there is continuous foot traffic, and Mari estimates that around 10 new clients discover the shop every day.

Mari described working with her sister as “fantastic,” and calls Malene her best friend. “She has always been good at taking care of people. She’s very sweet, and very smart. She’s a strong woman and comes across that way, but she cares, and she wants to help her creators build their business.” 

 Malene offers one-on-one strategy meetings with her vendors to discuss steps those makers could take to grow their business, and prospective designers can take workshops offered at the shop to learn how to make goods and start businesses of their very own. Some students who take classes at the shop even go on to sell their items at the Beehive. In this way, the boutique provides a pipeline from buyer, to student, to maker, to entrepreneur. 

 “That’s the thing that sets us apart,” said Mari, “we are open, we are all about sharing as a community. In here, the ‘Beehivers,’ we want them to grow. We share resources and ideas. We really are a community, that’s what sets us apart. We’re an actual community. My sister believes that there’s enough for us all, and you don’t have to be a starving artist.” 

 The past year has not been without its challenges for the Beehive. As with many retail establishments, foot traffic slowed significantly in early 2020 before they were forced to close their doors altogether and cancel workshops as the pandemic took hold of the city. Mari described how Malene’s tenacious commitment to ensuring the shop’s continued survival paid off when they received an EIDL grant in the summer of 2020. 

“Our application number was 3,934,000-plus, she watched it like a hawk, and we were one of the fortunate few to get that. We also had help from our parents, and the customers; they were coming in here like, ‘y’all can’t close,’” Mari chuckled.

To keep the lights on, the sisters shifted their business to an online shopping experience, and that is an element that has become a necessary part of the new normal. 

Throughout all the COVID-19 struggles, Malene and Mari have remained committed to their community of buyers, makers, and entrepreneurs. As vaccination numbers rise there is a distinct feeling of hope in the air. Workshops are set to resume this summer and makers continue to churn out handmade goods in an ever-changing environment. 

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Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.