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VOL. 35 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 11, 2011

Dream hitched to Green Wagon

By Hollie Deese

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Nashville native Johnny Shields had an idyllic image of his life. He wanted to be able to walk to work at a business he owns that focuses on sustainability.

“We moved back to Nashville when we got pregnant with our son about two years ago,” the 28-year-old says of his wife, Tara, who he met at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. “I was trying to figure out what we were going to do to make a living for our family, and I really didn’t have any idea except that I always had an interest in sustainability. I saw that as the future. If there is going to be one, it has to be.”

He entered Lipscomb University’s graduate program for sustainability, where he faced numerous sleepless nights thanks to a newborn and studies. By the time he finished the program, he had a better grasp of what he wanted to do, thanks in part to a job at Whole Foods. Customers would regularly ask where the local section was. Those items were scattered throughout the store instead.

“So I thought we should have a store where people can get local products easily,” he says. “I saw that as a need. I knew it was important to the local economy not to mention the environmental impact of things getting shipped.”

East Nashville appealed to him for many reasons, especially its community feel.

“I had wanted to live in East Nashville for years,” he says. “I loved the community vibe and love that there are neighborhoods and places to work right there. I could be living and going to work.”

Getting closer to his dream, he knew The Green Wagon already existed and he did not want to open a competing store in the same neighborhood.

But he met with the previous owner, Jennifer Casale, anyway. And in a case of pure serendipity, she was in the market for someone to take over the store so she could focus on internet sales and licensing Green Wagons to other areas.

“So we started working at the store, kept the conversation open and within a matter of four months, she was ready and wanted us to buy the store,” he says.

He and his wife took over ownership Jan. 1. Since then they’ve been painting, updating and even hand-laying a new stone patio. They didn’t close the doors, even as they repainted with zero VOC paint, but are planning a grand reopening celebration March 19.

Aside from the physical changes, customers will notice more products including handmade brooms from Gatlinburg and the Knoxville-based all natural makeup line Purely Clear. But they all still fall under their strict standards of what they carry.

“Everything has to be made in the United States and you have to source it as locally as possible,” he says. For instance, new lines of all natural cleaning products that now line the shelves come from Atlanta and Louisville because no one in Tennessee is making something comparable.

“They have to be 100 percent natural and plant based,” he says. And if a company refuses to divulge their ingredients, they don’t get carried at the store.

They also focus on giving, and support local non-profits during their “Community Days.” Every Wednesday, a percentage of sales is donated to the designated non-profit of the week.

Green Wagon also has partnered with 3funding America in order to extend the concept, setting up a rewards program that enables customers to give 5 percent of any purchase from businesses in the 3funding network to a non-profit of their choosing. In addition, for every $100 customers spend at Green Wagon, they will receive $5 in store credit.

“We want to show people that living “green” it is about more than environmentalism, it is about supporting your community and improving the quality of life for everyone,” he says. “Having a healthier environment is key, but it is not what it is all about. It is about helping other communities that are in need in your area.”

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0