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Artisan shifts lineup of owners

Saturday, September 1, 2007 | 5:51 p.m. CDT; updated 9:13 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — More than five years after it opened its doors, the Cherry Street Artisan has a new ownership lineup.

Laurie McAllister is now a co-owner with Susan Murray at the coffee shop and restaurant, located at 111 S. Ninth St.

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In July 2002, Murray launched the Artisan with her then-husband, Tom Bair. The two, who have children involved in the arts, hoped to create an atmosphere where amateur artists could express themselves. The business invites artists to display their work and hosts a variety of performances, from musical acts to spoken word poetry jams.

The business, located in the lower level of the City Centre building, previously housed the nightclub Shattered. The building went through an elaborate renovation before the Artisan opened.

“It was all bare concrete with a big trench in the middle of the floor,” Murray said.

Murray, a psychologist at MorningStar Counseling Center, said the courts awarded her sole ownership of the Artisan during her divorce proceedings. Bair was not available for comment.

McAllister, a longtime friend of Murray, bought into the business this past spring. McAllister runs all day-to-day operations, serves as the bookkeeper and is the general manager.

Murray works behind-the-scenes. “I have done marketing, decorating, artistic layouts, TV spots, fine-tuning recipes and catering,” she said.

Murray said the new arrangement is going well.

“As far as the partnership goes, we are fifty-fifty, and we bounce off of each other,” she said.

Diana Moxen is the executive director for the Columbia Art League, which is located upstairs from the Artisan. The Artisan, like businesses such as Main Squeeze and Tellers, provides needed display space for local artists, Moxen said.

“It’s great that they have so many venues to go to,” she said. “There are always more artists than venues.”

In 2005, the Cherry Street Artisan was named Small Business of the Year by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “They are innovative and a good example of a homegrown business,” said Don Laird, president of the chamber.

Murray said the Artisan remains unchanged other than a usual turnover of employees in the fall. The owners like to think of the Artisan as a home away from home for their employees. More than once, employees have met and gotten married or had their reception at the Artisan. Murray herself plans to hold her marriage reception at the Artisan next month. In May, the duo will expand their business when the Missouri Theatre reopens. The Artisan will provide concessions, a cash bar and a catering service at the renovated theater.


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