The Local Exchange opened three weeks ago at 130 S. Park Square, next to the ice cream shop SweeTreats.
Under a large awning stating, “Live Local. Buy Local,” are large glass windows along the storefront displaying local and regional products.
Inside, each table, cupboard and shelf is full of items, yet the store has an open feel where shoppers can hunt for the perfect treat in the 2,500-square-foot space.
Owner Marion Savic, who lives near the store on Forest Avenue, said she has been a stay-at-home mom raising three kids for the past 18 years.
Savic said it was her vision to have a large amount of local offerings in one space. Not all of the companies selling products in the store have their own retail locations, and rely on farmers’ markets and art shows, Savic added.
The high-quality and unique products include frozen popsicles from the Atlanta-based King of Pops, with Chocolate Sea Salt, Pumpkin Pie, Lemon Basil, and Thai Tea flavors stocked this week.
Other favorites include raw honey from Organic Mountains Gallberry Honey in Douglasville, gourmet cheeses from CalyRoad Creamery in Sandy Springs, and gluten-free bread from 2BWhole Bakery in Kennesaw.
Savic said she is seeing a “huge mix of sales” in the “very long lists” of recipients from each day.
“Some people come in just to get a root beer,” Savic said.
An artisan market
There is a small seating area in the front of The Local Exchange decorated with brown leather chairs and paintings by local artists. Savic said each artist walked in the store after it opened and asked that their work be displayed for sale.
Later this month, Savic hopes to fill two huge bookshelves against the back wall with writings from Southern authors.
“That is the great thing, you keep finding things made locally,” Savic said.
Savic said she has turned down some artists whose work does not fit the store, like clothing items that would expand the scope of the store too far.
The Local Exchange does offer accessories such as jewelry, knitted hats and slippers.
Nearly all of the products are fair trade, organic, made in the United States or recycled, Savic said.
You can always go downtown
James Eubanks, president of Wharton Management Inc., which owns many commercial properties along Church Street near the Square, said start-up costs for a small shop or restaurant owner can be high, well before revenue starts flowing.
Even when the doors open, it does not mean customers will come flooding in, Eubanks said.
A grant program by the Downtown Marietta Development Authority could help ease those startup capital requirements.
The 50/50 Matching Awning and Signage Grant, designed to encourage further economic development downtown, allocated $20,000 this year to reimburse owners for half of the cost in installing awnings and window decals.
About a dozen business owners, who must pay into the DMDA district’s tax digest, have expressed an interest in the matching funds.
There is a cap of $2,000 per building, and the grant requires approval of the new signs by the Historic Board of Review.
The grant program expires at the end of December, but could be re-implemented next year.
Former sandwich shop turns into ‘The Local’
One of the newest business owners on the Square was given unanimous approval for new signs at Thursday’s DMDA meeting.
James Tidwell, who has lived in west Cobb for 30 years, hopes to open a breakfast and lunch eatery the first week of August at the corner of Roswell and Atlanta streets.
Tidwell said he is completely renovating the space that was previously home to Tommy’s Sandwich Shop, and will spend more than $6,000 on two black awnings, 18.5 feet by 5 feet and 41 feet by 5 feet, to promote “The Local.”
The Local restaurant and the Local Exchange market are separate businesses.
As a board member, Eubanks brought up the need for the grant to the DMDA. Eubanks said the program should have a long-term impact on both old establishments looking to refresh their image and new businesses looking for ways to cut their initial costs.
Operating a retail or restaurant business around the Square can be a challenge with tight spaces in older buildings and extra ordinances to ensure the integrity of the Square’s historic character.
But Eubanks said businesses want to be downtown for the urban feel with constant activity and walk-in customers.
“Our downtown area has a lot of charm. We have a wonderful foundation,” Eubanks said. “It is the center of the city literally and figuratively.”