Who would have thought that just a few short months after the launch of Main Street Alabama’s Small Box Shop initiative in Heflin and Wetumpka that Main Streets around the Country would be shutting down due to a worldwide pandemic? Probably not the first time you have heard “who would have thought?” But, as we have seen in our cities around the state, Main Streets are coming back with a vengeance. Shopping local is on the rise. And, in these two communities, Main Street Alabama’s Small Box Shops are playing a critical role.
In the City of Heflin, Main Street Alabama's smallest community (pop. 3,480), Southern Charms made its debut in the Small Box Shop on Black Friday 2020. A group of ladies looking to try their hand at retail inquired to Heflin Main Street about utilizing the space. Opening a retail store had always been something this mothers and daughters team want to do but really didn’t have the resources to go into a full-time space. The Small Box Shop was a perfect fit. By just the end of the Christmas season, they had outgrown the space. Working with Heflin Main Street, they identified a perfect space for their new full-time space and are in the process of renovating a historic building downtown.
“The Small Box Shop has been a true blessing to us. It has given us an opportunity to explore our inventory and make changes along the way to accommodate the wants of our customers without investing too much," said Sandy Sanders, Southern Charms co-owner. "In doing so, our business had grown to a point where we were ready to make a storefront purchase that will fulfill one of our lifelong dreams."
Just two hours south in Wetumpka, you will find a City that is not just surviving but thriving. As Southern Living put it, "it is Wetumpka’s year to shine," and Main Street Wetumpka’s Small Box Shop will be at the helm. The Tourist Trap set to open April 1, will act as a tourism and marketing tool for those experiencing downtown.
“We plan to cooperate with local retailers to feature artisans and goods that are available at downtown businesses. We have hired a social media savvy, bee-bopping 20-year-old to help man the shop and market our mission and small box shop," Jenny Stubbs, Main Street Wetumpka Executive Director reports.
"We expect to continually roll out innovative ideas and concepts benefiting both new and old small businesses downtown," Stubbs continues. "For instance, a new wine and cheese shop has hit a few snags with its opening, and in the interim, we'll help keep the momentum going until opening, and then feature a select product to help drive new clientele to the business. We envision a great deal of reciprocal benefits and marketing for downtown as a whole, but especially new (and hopeful) businesses.”
Working through the USDA grant process, Main Street Alabama intends to apply for another round of funding to located two new Small Box Shops in other Main Street designated communities.