By Abby Ober
“Location, location, location…” Ask any real estate expert trying to meet the demands of the current housing boom and this well-known phrase will still likely come up as a key factor regarding both pricing and demand.
The same principle, however, remains true for entrepreneurs when it comes to physical retail space. Many consumers have shifted their focus online in recent years because of convenience and price, leading to the downfall of many big box stores and shopping centers. Still, being able to go see and touch a product in person – as well as build a rapport with who made and/or is selling it – remains unique to the physical storefront shopping experience. For startups and entrepreneurs, however, finding that perfect space, let alone knowing if they are ready to offer their goods and services within it can be a scary proposition.
Renaissance Covington (RCOV), however, has launched a new venture that seeks to eliminate that problem. In fact, if everything goes the way all the parties involved in its first outreach hope, one local entrepreneur might be able to say “business is blooming.”
RCOV’s former offices at 2 W. Pike Street is now the home of the Pike Street Pop-Up. The space will serve as a storefront for a rotating list of local entrepreneurs and startups with one or two different businesses to utilize the space on a quarterly basis. Mud Lane Blooms, a farm-to-florist venture owned by former Covington resident Miya Sohoza, is the first tenant to occupy the space, which she will through Monday, Sept. 27.
Pike Street Pop-Up follows Make Covington Pop!, a past initiative aimed at “revitalizing Covington’s urban core by seeking out creative and ambitious entrepreneurs” and bring their business to the city. The initiative saw two-dozen plus startups and entrepreneurs fill vacant storefronts in the city, including Grainwell, the popular woodshop and boutique also located on Pike Street.
RCOV Executive Director Nick Wade said the Pike Street Pop-Up represents a rebirth of an area long-deserving of being championed.
“Renaissance Covington moved to 2 West Pike St in 2015 during a time when Pike St. was full of vacant storefronts. As the area around us began to grow and develop we felt it was our duty to bring the space back to life with a retail storefront,” Wade said. “Make Covington Pop! provided space for over 20 vendors throughout the course of the program and helped launch several successful Covington businesses. We hope to see that continue with the Pike St. Pop-Up, where we can provide an extended pop-up time for entrepreneurs to really explore the viability of their business concepts.”
Diving into the details of Pike Street Pop-Up, however, showcases just how invested RCOV is in the project’s success. RCOV Program Manager Jillian Schneider, who also manages its MORTAR Covington effort, said her organization will sublet the space to each startup at a discounted rate. Additionally, RCOV has painted and equipped the space in preparation of Mud Blooms’ arrival, and their rent covering other expenses (furniture, WIFI, a Square point-of-sale system, utilities, etc.) that can be hindrances to startups’ budgets.
“We’re trying to give as complete of a shell of a retail space as we can with the idea that these entrepreneurs and small businesses can just focus on their products and be ready to go,” said Schneider. “It’s on historic Pike Street and that area has really grown in its retail presence.”
She now hopes other entrepreneurs and the public are ready to join RCOV in going all-in on Pike Street.
“It’s really an opportunity to give more small businesses, that do not have the capability to sign a 1- to 2-year retail lease, the ability to test a retail space with all the uncertainty coming out of COVID-19. We want to try to bridge that for them and say ‘Hey, why don’t you try this quarterly lease and test the market before you decide to kind of take that next step?’” Schneider said. “We want people in Covington to know about the Pop-Up Shop and say to themselves ‘Oh awesome – I’m going in here I’m helping to support somebody local.’ We don’t just want to be the subletters; we want to be that true connection point to make sure that local entrepreneurs are successful.”
For her part, Sohoza couldn’t be more excited to be the inaugural Pike Street Pop-Up tenant. A fixture at the Covington Farmers Market since starting her business in 2019, the move to a permanent space has been a long time coming. Growing up in Hebron before living in Covington, Sohoza bought a farm in Felicity, Ohio, with the dream of being a farmer florist.
That, however, was before a tornado wreaked havoc on the property in Feb. 2018, just six months after she and her partner, Randy Caskey, had relocated to it. Infrastructure – not to mention plants, trees and buildings – was gone, delaying but not devastating Sohoza’s dream.
Steadfast in her belief Covington “really misses” having a full-service florist downtown, Sohoza thinks the rotating tenant pop-up shop is a “fantastic” idea.
“Wade said to me ‘You know, we have these beautiful windows… Why is this an office? This is a beautiful space in a great location, why isn’t a business in here selling retail?’ and he’s right,” she said. “It’s great that they’ve kind of changed everything around to create the space.”
Asked what she would say to other entrepreneurs considering following in her footsteps, her response was simple: “Go for it.”
“I wouldn’t want them to have any hesitations about trying to be part of this experience because there are certainly risks involved as a business owner, but it’s worth it … My long-term goal would be to have a floral shop in Covington permanently,” Sohoza said. “I love the Riverside community. That’s where I lived on Third and Greenup for over a decade, so that’s very near and dear to my heart. I also love the Pike Street area and I have lived all over Covington so it’s all sort of near and dear (to me).”
To learn more about how your business could be the next Pike Street Pop-Up, contact Jillian Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org. It could be the key to finding your entrepreneurial dreams a permanent home of their very own.
Blue North’s mission to empower startups and small businesses. Any questions are welcomed. Small business owners and entrepreneurs may contact Blue North here. This column by Blue North is a regular feature of the NKyTribune.
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