By: Michaela Gilmer
EUGENE, Ore.- Carefully handling each individual piece of glass as she transfers the pieces from one glass shelve to another, it is impossible to ignore the beauty of each glass piece as the sun shines through the windows and reflects the glass art. Kristi Munro smiles and hums along to the background music as she finishes cleaning a glass shelf, positioning it evenly and finally placing each piece of glass artwork on the shelf that is on display.
Munro and her husband John are the two owners of Eugene GlassRoots located in the Whiteaker neighborhood on the corner of 5th and Blair. The couple bought the shop from another glass shop owner in October 2011. The glass shop sells a variety of products, all of which are locally made, including a variety of custom tobacco pipes, e-cigarettes, jewelry, paintings and clothing.
“It’s super inviting and all of the displays highlight the work of the individual artist,” University of Oregon student and GlassRoots customer, Kira Wagoner says.
Every glass piece in the store is a one-of-a-kind piece done by many local glass blowers, distributors and John, who has been blowing glass for the past 18 years. “We pride ourselves on this. We enjoy getting to pick out what we want to sell,” Munro says.
Noble Glass is a huge glass distributor based in Eugene. GlassRoots sells some of Noble Glass’s second pieces, or; in other words, glass pieces that work perfectly well but cannot be sold through distribution. This allows GlassRoots to sell quality pieces for a reduced and reasonable price.
”Not everything in the shop is categorized by price or quality. They let the pieces speak for themselves,” Wagoner says.
There are many other perks, too that allow Munro to create a unique atmosphere for the space. The previous owner left the couple with a variety of plants such as Begonias, Aloe and Jade. The numbers of plants create almost a jungle-like atmosphere. Munro laughs as she examines all the plants in the shop. Munro also takes care of all the online sales, marketing, taxes and the website for the shop.
Before moving to Eugene seven years ago, the couple worked as vendors on the East Coast selling glass art. Before taking over the shop in 2011, Munro also worked as a massage therapist. “We got exhausted vending. We had been traveling for a long time. We enjoy the people here [in Eugene] and the openness,” Munro explains.
The Whiteaker area is known for its unique shops, artistic neighborhood and generally the friendliness of the people. “It’s always been a vibrant and accepting neighborhood,” Munro comments. The welcoming vibe the neighborhood upholds can be conflicting at times when those, some who are homeless, push beyond residents or business owners limits.
Holding the remains of a lit cigarette, a single dollar bill and an empty cup, an old man with ripped light blue jeans and unkempt facial hair stumbles through the vibrant glass shop and stops to closely admire the E-Cigarettes that are on display on top of the glass counter.
“Hey Charlie,” Munro says cheerfully from behind the glass counter as she helps two customers.
Charlie picks up a can of butane and interrupts Munro, “Can I make hash oil with this,” Charlie yells to Munro. He continues to disrupt her and be careless as he handles the glass pieces in the store. Munro asks Charlie four or five times to leave, as he knows from previous times at the shop he isn’t allowed to smoke or bother customers. He puts up a fight but eventually surrenders and leaves.
“I hate having to do this. I hate it,” Munro says. She isn’t upset; she continues to help the customers find what they are looking for. Munro says she doesn’t worry too much about people breaking into the shop or dishonest customers. Munro’s kind, calm and collective interaction with Charlie demonstrates the heart and soul of the Whiteaker neighborhood as humble and accepting.
The couple is looking to hire another employee so that they are able to do some vending at festivals in the northwest. However, Munro wants the shop to maintain its organic roots where customers are able to feel comfortable with his or her purchase. GlassRoots is a self-made business. “Everything in the shop is here because we sold something to get it there,” Munro says.