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Little buildings, large impact: The LOCAL celebrates success as it welcomes new businesses

“It’s the overwhelming joy and wondrous opportunity that I was given, and now someone else is gonna fulfill that spot,” Owner of The Nine Oh Six Lakyn Bowman said, “I just think it’s a beautiful thing how all these success stories have come from just these tiny, little buildings. It’s so beautiful to see that.”

They’re three tiny buildings on the corner of Lafayette and N. Shannon Streets in Downtown Jackson. Really tiny. They’re described as ‘micro-retail’ at only 220 and 280 square feet. But, the three buildings have made a large impact in Dowtown Jackson. 

Created in 2017, The LOCAL in Downtown Jackson has given a kickstart to almost a dozen businesses, from homegoods to coffee, books and more. Along with the West Tennessee Farmers Market across the street, it has become a destination for shoppers. 

“The purpose of the local is to be a micro-retail space. It allows businesses to test their ideas in a brick and mortar to see if they’re successful and what adjustments they need to be making before they go to larger space with more overhead,” Jackson Downtown Development Director Corportation Director Beth Ann Simpson said. 

“And we’re not your typical landlords,” Beth Ann Simpson continued, “We’re helping you. Your rent includes utilities, the lawn being taken care of, you have shared garbage, all those things. It just makes it just more doable. We also have the tenant enroll in the CoStarters program with TheCo in January of each year. That gives them this fundamental program that’s helping them with growing their business.”

TheLocal leases the buildings for up to two years. They’ve had three “classes” since 2017. Applicants apply through JDDC’s website, and the search committee helps determine who would be a good fit. 

“What we see is maybe it’s not the first step for somebody, but maybe they’re popping up already, or they’re doing something that out of their home. Then they decide, they really want to expand their business, but in a smaller space. The LOCAL is a good fit for someone like that,” Simpson said. 

And if it turns out to not be a fit for that business, there is also good news:

“It’s an easier way to fail and not not have as much risk, not have as much loss. We just talked to a tenant from the last round, and they were like, ‘Hey, I realized that I didn’t love the retail side of my business. I want to keep doing the other installation piece, but I don’t want to do retail. It’s not for me.’ So like it’s a great way to learn those things,” Simpson said. 

The Nine Oh Six grows out of The LOCAL

Several new businesses in Downtown and Midtown Jackson started at The LOCAL, including Turntable Coffee and Light Trap Books, Garner Blue, and The Lost Reserve. 

Lakyn Bowman is soon-to-be one of those stories. She moved The Nine Oh Six vintage store into The LOCAL in September of last year, and only a year into her two-year optional lease, she is ready to move into a bigger space. Her new store is located on East Main Street and is expected to open in September. 

“I don’t think that if I had the opportunity to be at the local I would be able to smoothly transition into the big space like I am right now,” Lakyn Bowman, owner of the Nine Oh Six, said. 

Bowman sells curated vintage finds, including art, furniture, dishware and homegoods. She also makes pottery and does interior design work. Her spot at TheLocal was only 280 sq. ft. She had shelves above the door and hung pictures all the way to the ceiling to make the most of the small space, while also making the most of her time at the business incubator.

“I learned time management and growth and the seasons of when retail is slow and when it’s not, and certain types of events versus other types of events that can like bring people in, and it was really necessary in the confidence arena. I gained a lot of confidence,” she continued. 

A new class enters The LOCAL

Now, we’ve already seen one new business move into The LOCAL, and two more are expected to be announced soon. 

“Jackson shows up for the people at The LOCAL because they want to see new ideas. They don’t want to see another big box store. People want to see less of that and more creative small business ideas,” Bowman said. 

Sprinkle Me Sugar opened last week at TheLocal. The cafe sells gourmet macarons and teas. Owner Raina Shults was inspired by her trips to Paris, France. After she and her husband moved back to Jackson with their three children, the space unexpectedly opened up for her. 

“When they reached out to me, I am not kidding you. I did a happy dance in my house,” Shults said. 

She and another business shared one of the spaces after another business owner decided to close. Shults says in that time, her business grew substantially.

“I had zero expectations,” Shults said. But my business grew exponentially, I mean, five to eight times the amount of sales I had previously.”

And she doesn’t know where this new venture will lead, but so far she is happy with the success. 

“This was really honestly like, the most perfect space I could possibly imagine launching because they are so focused on helping develop, and they make it affordable for small businesses that are trying to start out. We can really experiment and test our brand before we make that big step and that commitment to move on,” Shults said. 

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news

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