Jenny MacPherson first developed a business proposal for a store specializing in rock, punk and metal merchandise in 2005.
Unfortunately, banks and funding agencies weren’t interested in providing any startup capital for a retail operation, so her plan gathered dust while she worked on saving money to make it happen.
MacPherson looked at storefronts in the years that followed, but it proved to be too cost prohibitive.
“The malls I couldn’t touch because it’s insane, and downtown I was looking at an average of $3,000 for floor space and that did not include utilities, taxes, and anything that needed to be repaired was my responsibility,” she says.
“Not only did they want first month’s rent, they wanted last month’s rent. Just to start up ... you're looking at $10,000 with no product, no income coming in.”
When MacPherson heard that Posie Row owner Anita Carroll had purchased the historic Tobin Building next door to her own storefront on Duckworth Street and had plans to restore the 123-year-old registered heritage structure and rent rooms to small-scale retailers, she wasted no time reaching out.
“Within five minutes I was emailing Anita saying ‘I want in. How do we do this?’”
“A rock shop needs to be downtown. It can't be in a mall or a suburban area. You want to be able to reach people where the music is and downtown is it.”
A couple of months later, Dead Issue, owned and operated by MacPherson and her husband Louis O’Quinn, is one of six independent retailers that are now part of the Posie Row & Co collective which is celebrating its grand opening this Saturday and Sunday.
Think of the retail co-op like a vertical strip mall, only far classier and located inside a building with a rich history in the downtown.
“When we put the word out that we wanted people to apply to the rooms, everybody said it will be the crafts people and people making stuff, but it's not, it's actually retailers that came to us and said ‘there's no space downtown that's affordable,’” explains Carroll, who more than doubled Posie Row’s square footage by opening up a wall between the two buildings and spreading her merchandise throughout the first floor.
On the second, third and fourth floors are nine rooms of varying sizes that she’s chosen to rent and a 10th room that will serve as both a pop-up retail space on weekends and a space for community groups throughout the week.
“At one point I was thinking, ‘what if people shop upstairs and they don’t shop at Posie Row anymore,’ I’ll have shot myself in the foot,” Carroll admits with a laugh.
“But already I’ve seen way more people coming through the door and really curious about what’s going on upstairs. I think it’s going to be good for everybody in the building.”
Included in the rent are business taxes, heat and lights, Internet, fire and security alarm monitoring, garbage and recycling pickup and space in the ground floor window to display their product offerings.
What’s more, Carroll is going month-to-month with her tenants.
“We’re not asking for gigantic deposits. We’re not asking for big long leases,” she says.
“If it’s not working, it’s not working. There’s no point in me saying sign this five-year lease and pay me rent for five years even though you’re not here.”
Not all the tenants are new business owners, some, like Cast On! Cast Off! are small businesses with a proven track record and a list of clients.
“She’s made it so it’s affordable for the little guy to be able to be on Duckworth Street, which is ideally where I wanted to be four years ago but because the rent was so outrageous, there was no way I could justify it,” says owner Katie Garibaldi, who operated her yarn shop on Water Street West 2013 until a couple of weeks ago.
“People would always tell me it’s just a little bit out of the way, so I was really getting a lot of people that were going there for a reason, they were coming to get something specific, but I wasn’t getting anybody else.
“Over here, in the little bit over a week that I’ve been here, there’s so many more people passing through and checking things out,“ adds Garibaldi, who has been able to expand her operating hours with the move.
“It’s a high traffic area and the way Anita has made it so that small businesses can rent out a room in here is perfect.”
Carroll prefers to steer away from calling Posie Row & Co an incubator for small business, but in many regards that’s what it is; a space where young entrepreneurs can learn the ropes of small business — with some help from an experienced business owner — without the risks that often lead to an early demise.
For MacPherson, a social worker by trade, and O’Quinn, who comes from an IT and retail background, it provides a safe space to grow the business and themselves as business owners.
“The great thing about Posie Row & Co is as we grow we can move into bigger spaces within this retail co-op,” says MacPherson.
“This is our foundation and if we can grow out of it that means other people are going to have the opportunity to get in there.”
Among the other retailers are Pinpoint Ink, Driven to Ink, Britaniola Artisan Soap, and XPro Pins. But this weekend’s grand opening celebration will feature more still as Carroll opens up the unrented rooms and pop up space for retail, art and food vendors.
A full list is available at facebook.com/posierowandco.