Meet Mary Kathryn Burnside, Owner of Clash, a Unique Gallery and Boutique Shop in Dayton, Ohio

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Mary Kathryn Burnside is recently engaged, a new mom, a long-time Dayton art scene enthusiast, and owner of Clash, a focal point in Downtown Dayton’s Oregon District.  Clash delivers a wow factor, because the items sold are rare and uncommon. Being different or odd is celebrated here, which adds to the vast interest from the community. Not to mention the art and fashion shows held throughout the year.

Clash, doubles as a gallery and a boutique that specializes in unique locally made artwork, jewelry, clothing, and other handmade goods. Learn more about Mary’s journey as a small business owner in our interview below.

Tell me about yourself, and what inspired you to start Clash?

I’m originally from West Virginia. I moved to the Dayton area when I was 19, to start photography school. Right when digital became popular, I decided to go to Sinclair to take entrepreneurship classes, because I knew I always wanted to own a business.

Years ago, I was apart of the Dayton creative incubator, called c{space.  We had a 6000 square foot venue, that we literally brought to life. We booked gigs for bands and visual artists. We did all kinds of events, art shows, fashion shows, and live performances, for people just starting out. We gave artists a chance to get their feet wet. I did that for 3 years, along with bartending.


My experience, as a bartender was also huge because I was a very shy person but I had to learn to communicate with different people. And working as a bartender and with c{space, I was able to meet artists and musicians on a regular basis. We eventually ended up selling.


So what happened after you sold the building? How did you continue to work towards your passions?

Our goal was to sell it, which was bittersweet. At the time, we had a space that we stored equipment in.  It was just an empty storefront. I was there one day looking around to see what equipment we could donate, and I thought, ‘Wow this would be a really cool store.’

I never anticipated opening my own store, but I thought we don’t really have anything for local artists,  that isn’t mainstream. There’s nothing odd, weird, or unlike the norm for artists to sell their stuff. I wanted to create something for that, plus a retail store, and that’s how Clash formed in 2011. The first Clash store was on 3rd Street.

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Wow, what an amazing story. So how did you turn this business idea into your reality?

Originally, I thought I’d only have the shop for a year and move on. I opened only after two months of the initial idea. I had no business plan or long term goals for it. But there I was a year later, and things were going well. I took that opportunity to move to the Oregon District from 3rd Street. Even though I loved the location of my first store, I had to move to where people were.

I also learned along the way different business principles that helped me grow my  business. For starters, if I didn’t sell an art piece within 60 days, the artist had to come and pick it up. We did a lot of consignment at first too. See, when you don’t have a lot of inventory (like most retail shops) you can keep costs low, and really scale your business.


Can you tell us more about the items you sell. Where do you typically find the artists and the goods?
I sell paintings, photography, and jewelry all from local artists. I also sell vintage clothing, that incorporates consignment. I used to find artists through Myspace, now it’s Facebook, Instagram, or word of mouth. Artists talk to other artists, so when they sell an item they let their friends know. I have also attended trade shows, and if I think something is a good fit for the store, then I’ll approach the seller. I’ve really enjoyed attending the Yellow Springs fairs.

Do you have a favorite item, that you’re currently selling?

Currently my favorite item at the store is the moon phase glow necklace. It’s perfect for a birthday, anniversary, or celebration. My daughter’s middle name is Moon. She was born on a rare blue moon night. So I love looking for moon products, and when I found that one, we had to have it. With every sale of that necklace, I put $2 into an account for my daughter, so it’s very special to me.

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With online shopping continuing  to soar, how do you stay competitive in a digital world?

It’s getting harder and harder to own a brick and mortar business. But it has forced us to have an online presence, that we are continuously building. Now that I’m a mom, my life has completed changed. I’ve hired people in the shop to help me out. I currently use Etsy for our online sales, but eventually our website will need to be updated.


What has been your favorite experience as a business owner?

I love being able to help artists, especially those just starting out. One time, I sold a painting for $10,000. To be able to do something like that, in Dayton was amazing. It really shocked the artist, they were so proud!

I’ve also held fashion shows, that have helped young girls boost their confidence. For many of them, this is the first time they’ve done a show, but they are getting experience and exposure. I love seeing their reactions once it’s over. It’s such a rewarding feeling to see them literally blossom right in front of me.


That’s truly awesome. What advice would you give to an aspiring woman entrepreneur?

I’d say just go for it. I had the thought of opening my own business, and then in two months I did it. If you think about what could go wrong, you’ll miss out on what could go right. Just learn as you go.

So what’s next for you and your business?
My business is growing, and as it continues to evolve things will change. We are considering opening a second location out West. My fiance and I, might move to that area soon. He owns Hicks Barbershop, and has plans to open another shop out West too. I love travelling, especially where there are mountains. And while our daughter is young, we want to explore. Before I got pregnant I lived in Utah and loved it. I would love opening my second location there, or possibly Colorado.

More with Mary...

Your camera roll is full of?

My daughter, of course. And product shots for the shop.

What’s the best part of living and working in Dayton, Ohio?

I’d say the opportunities! I love being a part of what I feel, is the start of a good thing in Dayton. I’ve watched myself and my business grow tremendously here.

If you could have lunch with any woman (past or present) who would it be and why?

There are so many! The first person who comes to my head is Sophia Amoruso. She is a young entrepreneur that I would love to talk to about her choices in live and what she would change if she could go back or keep the same.

Check out Mary’s business, Clash at the location below, through her Etsy shop, website, Instagram, and Facebook. 

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