(Lacey Champagne, Owner of LAYOR | Photo Courtesy of Layor)
When Lacey and Paul Champagne moved to Bend in 2016, there were two things they felt highly passionate about: art, and the sense of community. Lacey had owned an art store outside of New Orleans, and when they traveled to Bend on a road trip and fell in love with the area, she noticed that there wasn’t an art store here. As a result, LAYOR — an appealing space that offers premium art materials and serves as a rotating art gallery — was born.
“We felt Bend needed a dedicated art store, and I’m super passionate about art supplies and the community, so it’s a perfect pairing,” said Lacey Champagne. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Champagne is fiercely dedicated to keeping things local, and said she picked LAYOR’s downtown location because it had the same feeling as her previous studio outside of New Orleans. Even the store’s name is reflective of community spirit: “LAYOR” is derived from the two states that Lacey and Paul call home, Louisiana and Oregon. “This location is really special to me. We love being downtown; it’s a huge part of the art scene here, especially First Friday. The ceiling is original to the building.” She added, “We love the character traits. We are in the heart of Bend in terms of business.”
LAYOR, located at 1000 NW Wall Street, Suite 110, will celebrate its fourth anniversary this October. “It’s really a unique business model of having art supplies and a gallery,” said Lori Stites, manager of LAYOR. “It really fulfils Lacey’s desire to build community. We have artists on the walls who are also buying and networking here. This is really a community-based business model; that’s what drew me here.”
Stites has a background in small-business management, and had worked in and managed a furniture store in a small town prior to coming on board at LAYOR. “I am an amateur artist, so this fits so well. To be a retail store that focuses on network and building community is perfect for me,” she said. “This is a great space for this business.”
Stites says she is proud of LAYOR, and of Lacey’s efforts to source everything locally. “We really try hard to have specific Pacific Northwest brands, including Gamblin Artists’ Oil Colors and M. Graham & Co., both of which are Oregon paint manufacturers. Lacey got as many Oregon, Pacific Northwest and U.S.-based items as possible. Even our face masks are local, from Black Strap.” She added, “Every card, every sticker, every painting is supporting a local. The money from purchases goes right to the makers. We even have a jewelry stand with pieces from a local who has a disability. It’s not just lip service here; we cut checks to locals every month. It’s great.”
As with every business, LAYOR has ridden the COVID rollercoaster over the past few months. In order to keep the business going, Champagne and Stites quickly revised their business model during the closures. Stites was laid off for the first few weeks, but during that time, Champagne was able to create a website. “We were not web-based before, so we had to quickly get a website together,” said Stites. “Thank goodness Lacey is very technological, so we were able to get one up and running quickly.” The duo also started offering curbside pickup and free local delivery, and are now slowly expanding store hours again, with sanitation protocols in place. “Our community is amazing,” said Stites. “We’ve had professional artists who have gone out of their way to stock up here specifically. Our numbers are growing to almost normal; we are doing quite well all things considered.” Having to postpone class offerings and not having First Friday events have caused LAYOR to take a hit, Stites said, but she and Champagne are erring on the side caution. “We were up to three classes per week before COVID, and on First Friday, we had people waiting in line at the door. But now we are relying on art sales and people walking in. Sales and business were definitely affected during the heat of quarantine, but now we are getting back up there.”
Despite the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought to the business world, Champagne said they are cautiously moving forward and re-establishing long-term goals. “We want to keep building classes, teacher relationships and coordinating with the schools,” she said. “We love to do that. We do a First Friday with Summit High School. To see kids sell their first painting is amazing, it’s really unbelievable.” She said they also want to continue to grow the website. “We don’t want to be a website business, but we do want to have a current site where people can browse. We are always growing our merchandise to meet the needs of the community in terms of supplies; we constantly have an ear out for that.” She continued, “Even with COVID, we are starting to talk about these things again.” Stites added, “We are hoping we don’t go backwards on this pandemic.”
Virus aside, Champagne said their biggest challenge — as well as their biggest triumph — has been in accomplishing her goal to build community through LAYOR. “Outside of COVID, our biggest challenge has been finding our place in our community. We’ve done really well, but it’s a process to find the right teachers and artists.”
LAYOR’s current hours are 10am-5pm Monday through Friday and 11am-4pm Saturdays and Sundays.
layorart.com • 541-322-0421