Any trip around Charlotte will be halted with traffic stops seemingly at every turn for construction workers building apartments and businesses and making infrastructure changes. Charlotte ranks fifth in the nation for population growth and with this comes the opportunity for business expansion — if you’ve got the right amount of capital, that is.
For those who don’t have that capital, however — like smaller, newer business ventures or those typically on the creative side — finding a space to sell their wares can be challenging or even impossible. In response, temporary storefronts are popping up all around Charlotte.
This has been the experience of Amy Crowe, the owner and operator of Worthy Figures. Crowe’s business focuses on plus-sized clothing and has amassed quite the following. Popping up with Girl Tribe in both Charlotte and Atlanta, Midwood Market, Front Porch Sundays and Small Business Saturday, Crowe typically sells out of her unique fashion finds and has dreams of opening her own space. Because of the growing price of real estate, however, Crowe finds herself in a predicament that’s not uncommon.
“Real estate is so expensive right now,” Crowe said. “It’s almost impossible for small businesses to have a storefront.”
Her solution? Grab a couple of friends and share the overhead costs of a temporary space.
Crowe and a few fellow online and pop-up shops and owners such as Golden Reeds, The Alley Way Market and Rachel Tenny have concocted the Charlotte Collective Pop-Up Market. Taking over the lease from Haute & Co. Bridal at its former 201 Rampart St. location, Crowe hand-picked vendors to be a part of this venture.
Crowe isn’t the only one with this vision. For the last few years, Amy Herman — the owner and creator of Vintage Charlotte — has been popping up for a month-long storefront around Christmas featuring local vendors like Makenzie Monette with Hill Valley Vintage. Monette said while she would love to have a space of her own, traveling around Charlotte and to Atlanta for pop-up markets is the best fit for her business right now. Being able to tag and drop things off with Herman at her VTGCLT Pop shop takes a lot of hassle out of business ownership.
Crowe said, “It’s a community effort to make this successful. We support one another and promote each other’s products and sell for each other when we’re not there. We are all in the same boat — we’d all love to have a storefront, but it’s expensive and a big risk to take. This way we all have less risk and have each other’s support.”
On top of the Charlotte Collective project, Crowe also works a full-time job as an attorney in healthcare policy/patient rights during the day and then heads to the shop after she gets off work. There, she meets with customers, sharing hours of coverage with other vendors who also work full-time jobs in addition to stay-at-home moms, who Crowe acknowledged “also have a full- time job.”
She has a few ideas about what could make brick-and-mortar business ownership more affordable.
“If I had a magic wand, I’d say cheaper real estate. More spaces like Area 15 (a small business incubator) where there is less risk. Most places are around 3,000 square feet, which is too much to take on for a small business. Dividing a space like this to rent out for small businesses, like spaces in New York and LA, would be great for the growing Charlotte business community.”
As for business growth, Crowe said, “If I’ve learned two things, it’s always say ‘yes.’ You never know who you’ll connect with. The second is work with others. There is strength in working together and reaching out. I couldn’t have done this without my fellow business owners.”
Crowe and her group at Charlotte Collective would love to keep their efforts going at a different spot each month but for now are grateful for the opportunity for a cheaper, temporary rent.
Shoppers can visit Charlotte Collective Pop-Up Market now through May 31 at 201 Rampart St. in South End.