Lauren Duncan used her love of creating and community to open The LocAL Market, a shop celebrating makers from all across Alabama that sells anything from art to homemade soaps, to jams and honey.
Growing up in a family so closely interwoven with Auburn’s history, Duncan couldn’t help but fall deeper in love with her hometown. Her grandparents opened J&M Bookstore in 1953 and generations of her family have attended Auburn. After graduating high school, she couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else other than Auburn University.
Duncan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a masters in art education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to combine her two passions – creating and sharing her love of art. From there she began teaching art in Auburn City Schools, where she stayed for seven years. “It filled my soul to be around people who loved to make things,” Duncan said.
Her artistic and spiritual beliefs have always gone hand in hand. She often calls her paintings ‘her prayers’. “For me, it is very much about the process of painting rather than the product,” she said. “When I have hard things or good things happening in my life, I know I can express whatever the Lord is teaching me through a canvas better than anywhere else.”
In December 2016, Duncan jumped at the opportunity to test-drive her idea when a space opened up next to J&M Bookstore. For a couple of weeks out of the month, Duncan hosted a “pop-up” in the space, showcasing paintings, photography and goods all made from local makers. From there, she hosted more events to preview her (hopeful) business at popular locations around town, like the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. The feedback was so strong and positive Duncan knew her dream of opening her own store was in the near future.
By June 2017 The LocAL Market was up and running, with the shop’s walls lined with Alabamian artwork, including Duncan’s own pieces.
The idea behind The LocAL Market has been with Duncan for a while. Shopping local and supporting her community has always been an important aspect of who she is, a trait she thanks her grandparents for.
“It might be in my blood, but knowing how hard my grandparents worked to make their business an integral part of the community was such an inspiration for me,” Duncan said.
Raised in the center of the Auburn community, there were daily conversations about how important it was for citizens to shop locally. People could either choose to buy their textbooks and Auburn souvenirs online, or they could decide to support a local business.
Duncan said her greatest joy — and arguably her favorite thing about opening The LocAL Market — is bringing people together. “I love getting to introduce people who aren’t necessarily from here to Auburn. I get to say ‘Auburn is a great place, welcome! We say War Eagle! Let me show you where to eat, let me introduce you to my famous artist friends,” she laughed. “I get to showcase parts of Auburn I’m really proud of, and I think it’s represented very well in the market.”
“It’s important for everyone to realize that Auburn is not your average community. It’s a great place to live,” Duncan said. “It’s important to invest in it and support it by shopping locally.”