Small retail spaces like retail collectives and shed markets generate prosperity for rural areas and small towns when they:
- give small business ideas an affordable foothold
- create experiences that draw customers in
- build on the element of discovery for customers
- test promising retail concepts
- shelter businesses too small to survive on their own
- fill gaps in local retail markets
- boost cooperation and innovation among local retailers
But did the COVID19 pandemic change all that? Ecommerce sales are forecast to keep growing steadily after taking a big jump from 2019 to 2020. Has that killed rural retail collectives?
New shared mercantile spaces
Here are two new shared retail spaces that opened just before or since 2020.
Colfax Mercantile, Colfax, Washington
The Colfax Mercantile first opened in 2019 and made it through 2020. They’re in a building that had sat vacant for 15 years. Now it’s home to 15 different tiny businesses plus an office for the Chamber of Commerce. You can find frozen yogurt, furniture, repurposed, cookies, retro candy and much more in the Mercantile. It took award-winning cooperation between local business owners Laura and Austin Storm and the Colfax Downtown Association’s Economic Vitality committee, add in a little inspiration from a SaveYour.Town visit where we talked about the potential for shared retail spaces.
Special thanks to Sarah McKnight who hosted and sponsored me on my visit to Colfax and provided these photos of their results.
Walker Mercantile Company, Woodward, Oklahoma
Walker Mercantile operates in a shared building in downtown Woodward, Oklahoma. They opened in 2021, and feature many Made in Oklahoma products, a candy shop and other local vendors.
Notice the one wall bookstore in the photo via the Mercantile’s Facebook page. That’s a great example of a business idea that would struggle as a solo business in a small town, but can make sense in a shared space.
New shed market villages
Shed markets continue to pop-up in small towns and rural communities. Here are two recent ones.
Kuna Square, Kuna, Idaho
In 2021, Kuna, Idaho started their own shed market inspired by my retelling of the Tionesta Market Village story at the Idaho Economic Development Association. They built their sheds in a smart way. The City of Kuna partnered with experienced contractors to help teach high school students construction basics including framing, roofing, siding, and flooring. For 2022, they updated their name to Kuna Square, and are definitely planning to be around for many years to come.
Thanks to Kuna Economic Development for the photo.
Pop-up shop market, Guthrie, Oklahoma
Newly announced in 2022, Guthrie, Oklahoma, is starting work on a pop-up shop market using sheds to fill an empty lot in their downtown. They’ve actually done pop-up shops in their park, so moving into a shed market in the downtown makes good sense.
I stumbled onto this one when it was announced on the news that they had received two grants to fund it. This rendering was on the City of Guthrie Facebook.
More about shared rural retail store buildings:
- What business does every small town need? A store full of tiny retail spaces
- Small town retail trend: shared spaces
- One downtown building gives life to many new retail stores
- A community of small businesses in one shared building
More about sheds and market villages:
- Rural economic development idea: tiny business villages
- Tiny businesses in storage sheds: a rural economic development tool
- Tip for better pop-ups and shed businesses
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