The Village Marketplace and the Power of Trust

Earlier this year I heard from my friend Susan Ross at Lincoln Village about an idea she had for a Thrift Store. It was really more than a thrift store, it was more like a community center/ thrift store / arts and crafts center / coffee shop. I loved Susan’s vision but ultimately our effort but we could not find a space we could afford that was big enough. So after thinking and praying about this concept for a couple of months, Julie and I decided to just get on with it and open The Village Marketplace. In the words of my friend Emerson Fann, we decided to “jump off the cliff and build our wings on the way down”.

As a paradigm for project management, I don’t recommend Emerson’s method. But, if you are setting out with the knowledge that you don’t know where you’re going, you are not really lost! That’s confusing. I mean we set off to create income for our ministries and we understood that we did not know how to make that happen, or at least we did not fully understand. My grandfather moved from Ardmore, Tennessee to Huntsville on the train in the Nineteenth Century to work in a retail store and he later opened his own. So did my father, his son, and his stores eventually grew into a chain of 17 all over the South. I grew up in the stores and learned retail since before I can remember so I know more than a little about the business. Still, we have never run a thrift store.

So after jumping off, here’s a short synopsis of what’s happened:

  1. It cost more than we thought to operate
  2. We sold more than we thought we would, at least at first (almost $40,000 so far)
  3. We needed more space, almost immediately. So we had to rent another 2000 square feet over in Lincoln Mill (thanks Wayne Bonner!)
  4. Dusty and Tristan Graham, the managers we hired to direct, manage and otherwise operate the store turned out to be capital G “Golden”. They came with hearts as big as outdoors and a totally different way of operating a business. Together, I am 100% confident that a mixture of our styles and methods will produce an amazing result. Thanks be to God for the Graham’s.
  5. Nettie and Ron, the assistant managers Dusty and Tristan found through our friends at Lincoln Village ministries are so wonderful. They work hard, ask for little and deeply care about the Mission. They have five kids at Lincoln Academy and work just down the street at the store. It’s GREAT for them to be so close. A big win-win for everyone, and Nettie has started back to school! Way to go Nettie!
  6. Pete the Person, one of the homeless men Julie and I have been working with for three years is working at the store. He’s been in jail most of the last several months on panhandling charges. He’s trying to put some sober days together that will turn into sober weeks, then maybe he can get an apartment and some traction in life. The store is a huge blessing for these men, providing clothes and much more, through the patient (!) guidance of Ron and Nettie and Dusty and Tristan.
  7. Margo also has five kids and lives in public housing. She now has a place to work and be around good, hard-working people. Her kids are at MLK hoping to get into Lincoln Academy next year.
  8. Susan our old friend and employee for the last 12 years has also started working at the store. She works her other jobs too but is working more and more in the front of the store. She has also started back to school to become certified as a nurse assistant! That’s so wonderful.
  9. Lincoln Village ministries have poured into our store with activity, donations, volunteers, mentoring, general aid and encouragement. We loved them before but now, now they are family. To show our support recently we held a fund-raiser for them featuring Nashville recording artist Ronnie Freeman. It was at FUMC a couple of weekends ago and raised over $2300!
  10. Village of Promise is also a partner who has poured into the store. They have provided donations, support and great PR on their websites and blogs. Thanks for spreading the word so often! You guys are great!!
  11. Finally, our many friends at First Stop and The Village have rallied around and helped us get started. Nancy Jackson Martin and Danielle Clemons, thanks so much.

What’s next for Village Marketplace? We have absolutely no idea! But we trust, we have faith that it’ll be amazing. We do know that we have a big Thanksgiving sale coming up as well the push to the Christmas shopping season! Get excited!

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