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The Agurban

#631 – Small town retail trend: shared spaces

Apr 18, 2017

We LOVE this idea shared by our good friend Becky McCray! Does your community have empty downtown buildings? Is this a way you could put them to good use?

Small town retail trend: shared spaces
BY BECKY MCCRAY

Small towns struggle to fill big downtown buildings. Back in the day, they may have been department stores or large retailers. Now they most likely sit empty. Instead of waiting for one big tenant to fill them, what if we divided them up, and turned them over to a whole bunch of tiny businesses to grow in?

By giving Tiny spaces where businesses can be Together, we’re tapping two of the Innovative Rural Business Models. And we can even encourage Temporary experiments and trial businesses, another of the models.

The Village, Washington, Iowa – The small town of Washington, IA, pop 7200, had an old department store building. It was so big, 15,000 square feet, the owners struggled to find any tenant that could fill the whole thing. So, it sat empty for years.

Until Cathy Lloyd had the idea of turning it into The Village. Now it’s a collection of little shops. There are stores with only a few hundred square feet each. In the courtyard “town square” in the middle, there are tables and push carts available for micro-micro businesses to grow in. And that’s what happens. Many businesses grow from a tiny table to a little shop to a full-scale business. Others reach a size that is comfortable for the business owner and stay there. And that’s a win, too.

“I truly believe that this is the future of retail in small communities,” Cathy Lloyd said.

Coppes Commons, Napanee, Indiana Coppes Commons, in Napanee, Indiana, pop 6,600, is in a former manufacturing space, where they made Hoosier cabinets, like my grandma had in her kitchen. The 100,000 square foot factory is being renovated, step by step, and now houses an always-changing variety of small businesses offering locally made, handcrafted and freshly baked items.

Small City examples

Similar projects are happening in bigger towns, too. Grand Rapids, Michigan, pop 194,000, has the Shops @ MoDiv.  A developer, frustrated by empty retail space they couldn’t rent, decided to try an experiment. They cut the big space into 10 small and easy to reconfigure spaces.

It was designed as “an innovative and flexible retail incubator.” It houses both start-ups and established retailers downtown. The smallest are the size of a closet and the biggest, a bedroom. Even the entryway is being shared by three local artists.

Click here for the full article and more examples of share spaces from Becky.

Is your community already “sharing spaces” for new and/or small businesses? Please share!

Sign up for Becky’s posts here.