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With just a quick glance, “my late grandmother’s disorganized attic” or “a great episode of Pickers” might be your first impression of The Create Exchange.

But a closer look at this Cedar Rapids store shows a masterful system built to save money, save resources, reduce waste, and meet needs. It’s as though owner Jennifer Stewart has gathered all the best instincts of her career as a nurse, and her family history of nurses and teachers, and put all of that together to support arts and crafts.

“We’re not a garage sale, but we’re not your regular craft store, either,” says Stewart, who opened the store almost five years ago. The store is open every day but Mondays.

Here are just some of the ways The Create Exchange builds a system and culture of upcycling:

• You “pay what you wish.”

• Everything is priced to be around 30 percent below used sales cost.


• Store credit can be earned at a rate of about 25 percent the price that Create Exchange thinks it can earn.

• You can buy anything in any amount, not the amount in the package. For example, if you need 10 pipe cleaners, you can buy just 10 instead of a full pack of 100.

In fact, Stewart says, many of the drop-offs she receives are leftovers from bulk-packaged items that craftspeople and artisans simply did not need all of.

A lot of the items at The Create Exchange are small, simple and direct — like not only pipe cleaners but yarn, and marbles. ,But others are more elaborate. Like antique home adornments, antique or retro tools, or crafts and artwork already created by others.

Stewart collects balls of yarn for “any teacher that wants a bag of yarn balls.” She hosts a card-making group that creates pieces for Veteran Honor Flights, Meals on Wheels, Sisters of Mercy and On with Life Brain Injury Rehabilitation Fund.

She hosts private classes for disabled adults on three out of four Mondays every month.

Somehow among all of that, Stewart also finds time to work with the Czech Village Association on Houby Days, Czech Fest, Spooky Saturday, Small Business Saturday, and Svaty Mikulas. She also collaborates with the makers Mall to provide local artisans a cost-effective space to sell their handmade goods.