Surprise! I’ve moved Gather to downtown Raleigh and closed the space in Cary. The new space is a micro shop (only 16ft x 6ft with a larger classroom area in the back) in downtown Raleigh. The grand opening is tonight from 6-10pm. Why you ask? Read on.
Let me preface it by saying that this new micro space is actually the original location that I wanted for Gather, size and all. Back when Gather was just an idea in my head about 3.5 years ago, after Kindred (the retail incubator I was hired to envision & create but never paid for and incurred debt that I was never reimbursed for) unexpectedly ended in such a heartbreaking way, I felt beaten up. I am naive in that I really do expect the best in people and for people to work together collaboratively toward an end goal, and that at the heart of everything is basic kindess and the idea of do unto others. When those values are trampled upon without regard, it’s just devastating.
So after that experience and a good trampling on, I knew I wanted to continue to pursue my retail dreams but in a much, much smaller and more manageable capacity. I had long noticed a little entryway that looked like the back loading dock of a larger building, and thought, that could be an amazing tiny space! I knew the shop owner who ran the front portion of the building and inquired and planned out ideas for a tiny space in that building, ultimately though, the shop owner decided to go another direction. I looked at a handful of other spaces in the same neighborhood but the market was too competitive, the spaces got leased out literally within the hour of the time I was scheduled to see them. The spaces kept getting larger and larger, my ideas started expanding more and more. Finally, I found a charming storefront in downtown Cary, a sleepy oasis about twenty minutes outside of downtown Raleigh, an island of sorts where I could grow my business, put my head down and follow my path, the rest is history.
Fast forward to this past summer, Gather had now grown into a beautiful retail shop, a thriving coffee shop, a successful co-working space and classroom to hundreds of students. The space felt like every dream realized and I have never felt more whole or confident and totally in my element. On the flip side of the coin, all I did was manage the logistics of the space and there was zero room for anything else. There was no room left for my own pursuits unless managing was the pursuit I wanted to focus on. That aspect wasn’t going to change for the foreseeable future. I realized that while the space would continue to grow and thrive and blossom, that management aspect and the really tough parts would be a constant for a lot longer.
I’m entrepreneurial to my core and was prepared to dig in for the long haul, but knew that I would continue to pursue the path that I was on, driven and hyper focused, for however long I was on that path. At the end of the day, I don’t want to run a huge corporation, I want a nice manageable business where I can have a few employees, make my art, teach classes, showcase beautiful items, interact with the community, be closer to my friends and other like-minded businesses. The reality as any entrepreneur knows is that there is so much more to running a business than that, but by scraping off 2/3’rds of my heaping plate, I now have a lot more room to focus on those other aspects than I did before. As an artist and wife, and mother to a seven year old, that is very meaningful and profound and terrifying.
This past summer my husband, daughter and I were fortunate to spend a little over a month in Germany. I worked really hard to ensure that the business would function without me there and it did (a testament to my amazing employees) and I was able to reflect more on the bigger picture of how I was spending my days. I happened upon a tiny shop in Amsterdam and remembered my original plan for Gather, and began envisioning how I would open up an outpost of the larger Gather in that still unused back entryway, thereby having that location and the original location. But as I kept looking at it and kept simplifying the plan, I realized that what I truly wanted to focus on was just the tiny space.
Walking away has from the Cary spot has been conflicting because so many aspects of that space just felt so right but it’s that very confidence I gained that allowed me to make this choice. It has been nerve-wracking, and such a big challenge, but at the end of the day, what I really want. AsÂ is my nature, I’m sure I’ll add a way to complicate it, and I still have plans to add in a tiny tea bar too, but there’s only so much I can do in the space and that is actually really liberating. By seeking out the simple though, I certainly did make things more complicated and stressful in the short term.
Since October I have been toiling away at shaping this space into an environment that feels like an actual retail shop. The space is literally an entry way, never intended for use as a shop or anything more than a passage through from one place to the next so to get it to feel cozy, open and inviting has been the goal. You would think that such a small space would be easier to build out, but for me it is has been the most challenging of all, and has taken every minute of these past few months. There have been some hiccups, my address (which can’t be changed) leads customers to a street around the corner, where there is no entrance to Gather, I feel like I’m barging into a per-established community, the new kid on the block, and I am just a lowly tenant versus King of the mountain unable to make the final call on all issues, and of course the fear of change and the unknown.
But it’s done (well technically I am spending the better part of today finished up some details) and tonight we are celebrating. From 6-10 there will be a Made by Men market featuring seven local vendors in the parking lot in front of the shop, Yelp will be providing free cider and doughnuts and we are offering a wreath making workshop. If you are local, I hope to see you there. The space is located on Franklin Street, across from Yellow Dog Bread and beside Oak City Cycling. The address is 715 N. Person Street HOWEVER the only entrance is located on Franklin Street. Come see this tiny shop I’ve created and please help me spread the word, particularly because that is the only way people are going to find the space. ;)