Small-shop market heralds opening

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Bennett Cockrell, left, and Hilda Soden, right, watch Jean Field paint a table Saturday at the Small Shops Marketplace grand opening.


Staff Writer

Monday, October 1, 2018

A retail incubator inside a former furniture store along a busy Rocky Mount street attracted several people Saturday to see what its unique concept is all about.

The Small Shops Marketplace held a ribbon-cutting celebration hosted by the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce for the grand opening of its first store at 2916 Sunset Ave. The concept allows nearly anyone to open their own business, with no long-term commitment, no employees, almost no paperwork and a total upfront cost of as little as $160, according to Fred George, owner and founder of Small Shops Marketplace and of Trade It stores in North Carolina, including a store on Wesleyan Boulevard by Golden East Crossing mall.

George said the marketplace opened with about 80 ‘micro-store’ retail shops that are around 80 square feet, which allowed the marketplace to rent a space to a small shop retailer for $5 to $6 a day with no long-term lease.

“We opened up thinking we were going to get 25 or 30 people just like when my uncle started this concept — but to get 70-plus people in here to start up is amazing,” he said. “The people of Rocky Mount who have entrepreneurial hopes and dreams and wanted too make something have come in here and transformed this space.”

Gretchen Allen, who came 40 miles from Farmville, was among the several people that came to browse at the different small shops. Allen had a friend whose baby was getting baptized today, so she decided to purchase a baby gift at one of the shops.

“This is a nice place and is different from a regular store,” Allen said. “It’s neat to see these small mom-and-pop businesses or shops offer a wide selection of items. I hope this works out.”

George said the shops in the Small Shops Marketplace include furniture, clothing, restaurant equipment, golf, computer repair, paintings and decorations, Christmas trees, antiques, mattresses, kettle corn, Dixie Belle Paints and others.

Jean Field, owner of Vintage Charm Reproductions, has run a small boutique for 10 years in the Twin Counties. Field sells Dixie Belle Paint, a line of chalk mineral paint designed to eliminate the need to sand, prime or seal. Dixie Belle Paint is ideal to help refurbished older furniture, she said.

“I think Rocky Mount needed something like this really bad,” Field said. 

Zoradenise Harris, the owner of White Dove #3 Gift Shop, once owned a Christian bookstore when she lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

“I had a quite a bit of stuff that was left over, so that’s what got me over here,” Harris said.

Harris said in addition to selling Christian books, other products she is selling include kitchen items, dishware, stoneware, Chinaware, handmade items, jewelry gift boxes, Christian-themed T-shirts and children’s items and clothing.

“We know we’re going to do good here,” Harris said. “There are a lot of items like mine that are sellable. This is a good location and there is plenty of traffic around here.”

Erin Rogers, an investor at Small Shops Marketplace, said Small Shops has signed a 15-year lease and wants to make sure it does everything possible to help the retail shops succeed. Rogers said Small Shops still has additional spaces for more retail shops.

Rogers said Small Shops is planning an event through the Chamber around the holiday called Small Shop Saturday.

“People can spend every single minute of their life making this their job or set their station up, go on vacation because we have the staff that you don’t have to live here selling your stuff,” she said. “We wanted to take all the hard and intimidating part away of what starting a business looked like and make it as simple as possible.”

George said the Rocky Mount location is the first of several location Small Shops has plans to start in the future in the surrounding area.