On October 14, 2022, The Collective Retail & Artisan Shops opened on 2nd Avenue in downtown Williamson. Now, it’s time for their One-Year Anniversary Celebration.
On Friday, October 13th shoppers coming to The Collective will be treated to all-day sales, giveaways, and fun. From 5pm-8pm snacks and shop samples will be offered. Shoppers will also enjoy live music by local musician Alan Riffle from 5pm-7pm.
The Collective is home to 14 small businesses offering a variety of products. The shopping area is in the former large lobby space area of First National Bank. With new trends in banking, First National was looking for a better way to utilize their space. In mid-2022, the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce secured a lease agreement for the space. After quick renovation work, mostly completed by bank employees and chamber members, the shops were ready to open.
“We do operate our chamber a little differently than most chambers. As a stand-alone non-profit organization-not a city, county, or state entity-we operate on our own, with our largest source of revenue coming from membership dues,” explains TVCC President Chris Dotson, “therefore, we look for innovative ways to increase our revenue, improve the business climate, and offer new businesses in our area for residents and visitors to enjoy. The concept of The Collective is perfect for us.”
In December 2019, Chris and TVCC Executive Director Randall Sanger began discussing the need for a business incubator/retail co-op style of business in downtown Williamson, however space wasn’t available for the project. After a chance discussion between Randall and First National Bank President Charley McCoy, the project began to come alive.
Randall says, “Williamson was lacking in downtown retail options, and we also knew of several individuals who were interested in starting a small retail or artisan-based business. We felt the best way to bring in new retail and artisan-based businesses was through the co-op model. For a couple years, we kept our eyes and ears open for a suitable location, and when the lobby of First National Bank became available, we knew it was the perfect spot for a retail and artisan co-op venture.”
Chris and Randall preferred the idea of a business incubator/retail cop-op because it gives an opportunity for small business owners to start their own shop without all the expenses of trying to form their own brick and mortar shop immediately. The Collective model allows business owners to get their feet underneath them before they expand their businesses.
How does it work? Here’s a brief overview:
The TVCC leases the space from First National. Next, individual shop owners apply for a business space and if approved, sign their contract. Shop owners pay per square footage of their shop. The chamber does not take any portion of shop sales. All shops are entered into one point of sale system and the chamber employs store clerks. Shop owners are responsible for their shop needs such as stocking, pricing, etc. With the chamber employing clerks, the owners are not required to be at their business daily so they can continue to work or take care of other obligations while they get their business off the ground.
“We try to keep costs as affordable as possible for the shop owners. We are not looking to make a profit for the chamber. What we are looking to do is grow retail in our downtown and hopefully, serve as a model for other communities to give something like this a try,” says Chris.
They tell us they have hosted several visitors from outside of the local area that have come to see The Collective and ask for advice on how to start something like it in their own area.
Chris says, “We enjoy our visitors that ask for advice and information. We are always willing to help and provide information as needed. We went into this with part of the goal being to serve as a catalyst or motivation to others wanting to start a small business or co-op style area in their towns.”
Both Chris and Randall are excited about the success The Collective has experienced in this first year.
“Watching the dreams of being a small business owner come to life for the shop owners in The Collective has been thrilling to watch. Overall, each business has contributed so much to the economic climate and quality of life in Williamson and hashelped in a great way to make it fun to go to town again, “Randall continues, “Personally, I have had the dream of having my own photography gallery for years, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. I truly enjoy sharing my work with others, and The Collective is the perfect venue for this.”
As for Chris, she also owns a shop in The Collective. CC Coffee and Tea Interest was formed from her love of coffee and tea; however, Chris explains one of the factors for opening her shop was to do something she encourages others to do.
“Often, you hear people say someone else should do something, whether it’s open a business, do a community service project, or whatever it might be. Rather than simply tell others to open a business here, I wanted to do what I encourage others to do, “Chris explains.
Looking to the future of The Collective, the pair are excited to watch the project grow and flourish. “The Collective is not without challenges, but the rewards can and will be great. We must try new things and create the town we want to live in. Everyone has a role to play in the process,” says Chris.
Randall agrees and adds, “The Collective is just what downtown Williamson needed. How great is it to have a bookstore in town again? How awesome is it to be able to purchase Blenko Glass products and other quality artisan offerings in Williamson? In part, The Collective is Williamson’s version of Tamarack with all the wonderful art, food, coffee, and tea selections, and so much more. The Collective has also become a nice place for the community to gather for various functions. From book signings, pop-up shops, workshops, game nights, and gallery openings. I’m so excited to see what the next year has in store for The Collective!”
Currently, all shop spaces are full in The Collective, however the chamber does have a waiting list for anyone that would like to be considered for space, if something becomes available, To inquire about the wait-list, you may send a message through The Collective Retail & Artisan Shop or Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To close we will use the slogan so often seen on The Collective’s social media posts:
Let’s go to town to shop local, eat local, and support local!
Below is a list of all shops in The Collective Retail & Artisan Shops. You’ll find each individual shop on Facebook, as well.
The Sanger Gallery
Maple Grove Books
White Daisy Boutique
Gift Nation Personalization
CC Coffee and Tea Interest
Old Mountain Field Fine Arts & Crafts
The Twisted Sisters Creations
Southern Delight Freshies
The Wood Shed Company
The Outdoorsman's Shop
Maison de Couleurs
Outdoors Mommas Sweet Shop