On a sunlit afternoon in May, Tyler Station’s shop doors are open, allowing passersby a glimpse at proprietors peddling books, vintage threads, organic dog food and other wares or services.
Among them, Corrie Pocta, co-founder of the all-women artist cooperative Trade Oak Cliff, is preparing for maternity leave. Working on the store’s studio side, she shifts gears (artist to salesperson) when shoppers arrive. Business hours are fluid. The store is open Thursdays through Sundays — and whenever else an artist is in — but that could change when the baby comes. Pocta sells her own creations — ceramic mugs and vases and leather works — and those made by her co-tenants, including business partner contemporary artist Brooke Chaney, whose brand name is Made By Mom.
Pocta and Chaney are both former Dallas school teachers aiming to strike the right balance of artist and entrepreneur. They clicked a few years back at an education workshop upon discovering they both had meticulous minds and lofty ambitions, Pocta says.
“Though we’re artists, we were both nerdy, with achiever brains,” she says. “The way that both of our minds work is that we create a lot while also being analytical and pragmatic.”
Chaney says this led to a “mutual respect” and friendship. When Pocta quit teaching in 2020, she inspired Chaney to do the same.
In order to make art a full-time pursuit, they rented space inside the converted factory adjacent to Tyler Vernon Rail Station — now home to several small retailers, brewers, bakers and hairdressers — and launched Trade.
The founders say it took patience and discernment to find others operating at a similar level, but now Trade has a steady team in place — it includes artists Molly Sydnor, Niki Dionne, Charli Miranda and Cat Rigdon.
Co-artists pay a share of the rent and work shifts in the shop in return for personal work and exhibition space. They keep 100% of their sales.
“We have a crew that’s planning to stay for a while, people that are looking to expand their product,” Pocta says. “The opportunity to showcase means an opportunity to grow.”
Trade Oak Cliff at Tyler Station is part studio, part store and part pottery or painting classroom. Chaney and Pocta say teaching is still an important component of their mission.
“Giving people an opportunity to be creative and engage with things and understand the process hopefully gives them an appreciation for more sustainable items,” Pocta says. “Maybe they are going to buy a special piece of art because they now have an appreciation. Maybe they want to buy less, buy local, want things in their life to be a little bit more meaningful.”
The chance for artists to sell directly to consumers also is a driving force behind Trade, the women say.
That not only keeps prices down but also allows creators to connect with the shoppers purchasing their products. Trade takes this artist-consumer pipeline concept beyond its membership with local markets, where other merchants who do not have storefronts also can sell directly.
“For us, it takes six people sharing rent for our space,” Pocta says. “A lot of people don’t have that physical brick-and-mortar spot, so the markets are a part of making that happen for more people.”
Chaney — whose vibrant geometric paintings, handmade apparel and person-sized fabric flowers (commissioned for immersive art shows like Sweet Tooth Hotel) lend blasts of color to the little shop — says she loves the sense of community that results from the way Trade operates.
“A big part of it for me is creating genuine and authentic friendships, not just customers, and the cross-pollination that we get at markets or just by hanging out here at the space,” Chaney says. “We have so many people that will just drop by, just saying ‘hi.’”
She says visitors don’t need to purchase something or take classes. Sometimes Trade is just a spot for like-minded folks to share ideas or meet their neighbors.
“I will talk you under the table,” Chaney quips.
Trade’s business model is unique. As the women break new ground they hope to share what they’ve learned with others.
There’s a need in the art world, Pocta says. She wants more artists to use the co-op structure.
“We are paving a way and would love to spread knowledge,” she says. It is something they plan to do more formally in the future, but for now they invite anyone to drop by and talk shop.
That goes for all local business owners, Chaney adds. She has done office design work for women launching companies and thinks sharing what they’ve learned about paperwork, permits and taxes, for example, can help first-time business owners overcome that fear of the unknown.
“It’s just been exciting to see how many women are actually out there, starting their own businesses, running their own businesses,” Chaney says. “Just having that community and camaraderie between us is empowering, and I am just excited to see how many of us are out there.”
Trade Oak Cliff is located at 1300 S. Polk, Suite 274.