December 11, 2020

#ShopLocal at District Trading Company

by joeyphoenix

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This holiday season, we’re highlighting local businesses as part of our #StayLocal2020 campaign. Scroll to the bottom for more information.

by Joey Phoenix

District Trading Company is a small, vibrant store on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Salem that boasts one of the largest collections of work by local artists the city has to offer.

Owned and operated by artist Matthew Smith, District Trading Company has Salem-centric vibes that focuses less on the witch kitsch and more on the salt and sea vibes of Salem’s historic spice trade past.

“District Trading Company celebrates Salem and coastal New England, and almost everything in the shop is made locally,” Smith said. “It’s all about celebrating this super creative community!”

Alongside other Salem retail locations like Moody’s Home and Gifts and the storefronts on Salem’s Artists’ Row, District Trading Company prides itself on displaying and selling work that local artists have made, providing opportunities for patrons to shop local, and for the area’s artisans, makers, and creatives to have shelf space.

Matthew Smith designs and prints all the shirts and cards on the shelves in the shop and features art from talented Salem artists like John Wathne, Grimdrops, and Russell Findley. He has also partnered with Salem’s own French Press Candle Company to create an exclusive line of candles with Salem’s beach vibes built in. 

“A highlight of owning and running District Trading has been partnering with local artists like Grimdrops and John Wathne – both Creative Collective members – to feature their work for more eyes to see. We started with Grimdrops for September/ October. His graphic style and cheeky mashups were perfect. People loved them and purchased them,” Smith said.

Grimdrops displays artwork on the walls of District Trading Company

The featured artist this month is John Wathne, a local artist Smith has admired for years.

“[John’s] ability to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary is inspiring. I’m talking landscapes that feature places like Highland Ave or the parking garage downtown. I just stare at his paintings and get lost in them.

“Everyone really should come by and check them out in person,” he added.

Shopping at District Trading Company is also a chance to give back to the community, as 5% of all sales goes to support local arts education and programs.

“I’m currently working with the Salem Y to provide art supplies and more to support their arts-based programming,” Smith said. “They offer so much to so many throughout the community, and given the increased challenges from COVID, it just feels like the right thing to do.Imagine what kids could produce with more resources?”

District Trading Company is at 131 Essex Street in Salem is open daily (except Tuesdays) from 12pm – 6pm, and until 7pm on Thursdays. Stop by to view work by John Wathne, shop for last minute gifts and stocking stuffers, and see some of the best that North Shore artists have to offer.

You can also shop online or learn more at

Joey Phoenix is the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore and the Digital Content Manager for North Shore Pride. Send story ideas, inspiration, or pictures of adorable critters to

SHOP LOCAL! Support the small businesses that make up your community and are owned by your friends, neighbors, and fellow community members.

If you are a business and are interested in being part of this initiative please visit and sign up for our comprehensive business program!

staylocallynn • #staylocalsalem • #staylocalpeabody • #staylocalbeverly • #staylocalmarblehead

We wanted to shine a spotlight on many of the small businesses that make up the fabric of our communities and support them as much as we can throughout the Winter.

Stay tuned to this event for information on businesses throughout the North shore. We will be highlighting the humans behind the small businesses, showcasing specials and promotions, and also curating experiences that will make your local shopping even better!

A priority this year will be to educate consumers on the safety protocols that so many of our fantastic businesses have implemented in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.