Coles Doyle saw another opportunity to help small businesses within the community after he ran the American Dream Project initiative at the Auburn Mall.
She got together with others with Hull Property Group, which represents Auburn Mall, and it wasn’t long before they came up with an idea: Create a physical storefront that houses multiple different local businesses, artisans and more in one place.
That’s how The Maker and Merchant was born.
“We had so many applicants, so many awesome small businesses in the area that wanted to try a brick-and-mortar but weren’t necessarily comfortable filling a store or running a store of their own,” said Doyle, owner of the Maker and Merchant. “We came up with the Maker and Merchant as a way of accommodating tons of different small businesses, running the store for them, but allowing them to have the presence and it’s really sort of taken off from there.”
Although the Hull Property Group is not the owner of the Maker and Merchant, the group had and continues to have an instrumental role in getting the store launched with the goal of bringing the store to other cities throughout the country.
The Maker and the Merchant provides the staff, marketing and point of sale for vendors; the vendors only have to pay a space fee and sign a commission agreement.
“There’s a lot of things that go into running a brick-and-mortar store which can make it really overwhelming for a small business on their own to start out,” Doyle said. “We’re handling all of that so that small businesses can focus on bringing in the merchandise, marketing that they’re here.”
The Maker and Merchant will house 40 different vendors when it opens, which provide a wide variety of items to purchase.
“We definitely have a good amount of retail and apparel, both women’s clothing, boutique clothing and also kids and baby items,” Doyle said. “We also have several local makers that are doing all sorts of different things whether it’s bags, or candles, a lot of jewelry. Then a few artists that are doing different art prints or making ornaments or hand towel designs.”
The store houses mostly Auburn-Opelika area businesses, including Initial Outfitters, which sells personalized jewelry, gifts, handbags, apparel and multiple other items.
“We’re really a home party company, but with COVID we have really transitioned,” Alicia Storbeck, CEO/Founder of Initial Outfitters, said. “We just thought that since the Maker and the Merchant was coming to the mall that this would be a perfect opportunity to just showcase what we do here to the local community, let them know more about who that company is that they see as they drive up to Tiger Town all the time.”
The storefront at the Maker and Merchant is Storbeck’s first. She began setting up her space in the store on Monday and was already in awe of the amount of creativity within the space.
“One of my favorite things to do is go to craft shows and the holiday markets and things like that because I want to see what local people are doing because that’s where you find the most unique things,” she explained. “That’s what I’m so excited about this particular store is that it’s going to be absolutely filled with a ton of creativity and local talent. It’s going to be a great place to explore.”
Many of the business housed in the Maker and the Merchant are ones that may have lost some commission due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Doyle and Storbeck feel the store can help provide the added monetary boost to those who lost income due to canceled shows and fairs.
“I know this year those have been extremely limited,” Storbeck said about craft shows. “So, people who are basing their business on being able to run it through those types of events have really been hurt and so this is like a semi-permanent location to have that experience throughout the holiday season which is an amazing, amazing opportunity.”
Not only is the Maker and Merchant helping other small businesses get a jump start, it too is a small business opening during the middle of a pandemic. Doyle, however, feels that despite the pandemic, the timing of opening the store couldn’t be better.
“The timing seemed really great for this store because small businesses have really been hurt a lot by the pandemic,” she said. “I think it’s really exciting to see the whole community come together and we have met so many wonderful businesses. Everybody is really coming together. I think together we will be really strong as a business.”
The Maker and Merchant is set to host its opening next weekend (Friday, Nov. 20), exactly one week before Black Friday.
“This is actually a great place to come Christmas shopping and gift shopping because we have so many different items and also unique items,” Doyle said. “A lot of the things are handmade. You can’t get them other places.”
Storbeck encourages community members to shop local, including at the Maker and Merchant, this holiday season because the money goes right back into the community.
“The small businesses that are local, those are your neighbors, those are your family, those are your friends, those are people that when you make a purchase it truly impacted them in a meaningful way. It’s not just a drop in their bucket,” she said. “Sometimes it is their bucket and it is whether or not their kids get to do something or have braces, or whether their family gets to eat, or whether they get to make their car payment or mortgage payment. Supporting local business is critical.”
The Maker and Merchant is located in the Auburn Mall near the food court. For more information about vendors, store hours and opening weekend events, follow the Maker and Merchant on Instagram @themakerandmerchant, on Facebook or www.themakerandmerchant.com.
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