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VOL. 39 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 6, 2015

Small shops, big business

Mall alternatives thrive as holiday shopping approaches

By Hollie Deese

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Reese Witherspoon’s flagship boutique, Draper James, opened last week in the 12South area, and the reception was all Nashville.

Musical performances by Lee Ann Womack and Ruby Amanfu kept guests like Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Sheryl Crow, Mayor Megan Barry, Kacey Musgraves and Lily Aldridge entertained while they shopped (perhaps for the holidays?) and milled around the store’s back parking lot, which was transformed into a charming, Southern-style party.

The neighborhood’s newest retailer is the lifestyle brand’s first brick-and-mortar store filled with fashion, accessories and home décor. Named for the movie star’s grandparents, Draper James is the latest retail location to take a gamble on the 12South neighborhood, which really isn’t too much of a gamble anymore, at least in terms of foot traffic.

“We’re thrilled to have a place that we can invite our customers into to experience the brand, sit back and sip some sweet tea,” says Andrea Hyde, CEO of Draper James. “The store is inspired by a modern Southern woman’s home because we want our customers to feel welcome.

“The Nashville store features artwork by local Southern artists like Susan Hable, Lindsay Cowles and Amy Neunsinger along with exclusive coffee table books that will not be sold online.

“Nashville is a city that is culturally vibrant and has had such an important influence on our brand story,” Hyde adds. “Reese has fond memories shopping as a child with her mom in the 12South neighborhood and running into everyone they knew. She was excited about recreating that experience,” she adds.

Judith Bright now operates out of a quaint house on 12th Avenue S. after moving from The Mall at Green Hills.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“We are excited to cultivate our first store in Nashville, but we are seriously looking at Dallas for 2016, and then we will dot our way through the South.”

“The brand was built on the backdrop of Reese’s Southern past. Draper James is about the way you live your life, not a dress code. There is a certain joyful sensibility that Southerners infuse into their daily lives.”

And, their overtly-feminine presence on the block is a welcome one for nearby retailers who expect to get the attention of shoppers who came to see Witherspoon’s wares.

Jewelry designer Judith Bright opened her boutique in one of the houses that line 12 South in February 2015. She made the move from her previous outpost at The Mall at Green Hills where she had a three-year deal to open and operate after she had been building her brand out of her basement. But being in the high-end luxury mall was never exactly the right fit for her brand.

“We were just thrilled by the opportunity, and it gave us great exposure,” she says. “It was certainly not who we are, but we made it that way and still had our studio there. When the deal was up, luckily this cute little house was up to rent.”

There was no “for sale” sign advertising the 12 South house that now is the home for her jewelry, but Bright heard about its availability through the grapevine and thought the charming building was just the right fit for her wire-wrapped pieces.

She admits she was still a little apprehensive of such a drastic change in location.

The Shoppes on Fatherland, a retail start-up community at 1100 Fatherland in East Nashville, has fostered a sense of camaraderie among its vendors.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“I didn’t even realize how lucky I really was,” Bright says. “When I first got over there, it was not as developed. I was still a little freaked out about it, because I just wasn’t used to that location. But pretty much as soon as I signed that lease, the apartments went up across the street, all these stores started coming in, so it really became such a great spot to be in.”

She admits foot traffic is a bit less than at her previous spot, but those that come in are in the mood to buy.

“We are in the book inside the hotel rooms so people find us from that, and we get a million tourists in on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Bright says. “That is so great for us, because it really gives a lot of exposure to our brand. It’s just been tremendous, all the way around.”

Bright attributes the wealth of dining and shopping options around her as a real draw for tourists, and locals too, who like to park, walk and shop without having to worry about moving their car for every new experience. Those options mean a more likely return.

“I think it’s nice to have the mix of restaurants and retail,” Bright explains. “That’s great for the people strolling up and down, because people are always asking what to do nearby.

“With Frothy Monkey, they can have coffee, with Las Paletas, they can have a popsicle. There’s lots of stuff for us to offer for them around there. We all support each other, too, as merchants. I’m constantly sending people everywhere, because we want to keep them on 12 South.”

It’s that sense of community and retailer support that drove David Tieman, co-owner of Jones Fly Co. with Peter Jones, to open at The Shoppes on Fatherland three years ago in East Nashville. Tieman is one of the owners of Five Points Pizza, and Jones was a longtime fishing buddy who together opened the kind of fly store they wanted to shop in.

“That location just made a whole lot of sense to us,” he says. “We both live in East Nashville. We’d been talking about this idea for quite a long time and as soon as these shops came open we just jumped on it and thought that would be the perfect opportunity, being central to both of us.

“There’s really not anything like that over on this side of town, and it’s something that we really wanted to see in our neighborhood.”

The Shoppes on Fatherland is a retail community of a few dozen retailers at 1100 Fatherland, with a mix of antiques, food, home décor, fashion, philanthropy and, of course, hand-tied flies.

“We are friends with everybody over there,” Tieman explains. “There’s group marketing campaigns that we work on together, and there’s just a general sense of camaraderie. It’s kind of the theory of raising the water in the bucket raises the level of everyone in the water. And I think everyone over there has that attitude. If someone comes to another shop and happens to wander by our shop, that’s great.”

And it helps that each place brings in a little bit of different clientele, especially handy when encouraging people to shop local for the holiday season.

“Eastside Music just moved in and they’re doing an awesome job of bringing new people into the shops,” Tieman says.

“Chocolate F/X has been there for a little while now, and they bring in a completely different crowd. High Garden Tea Shop has their own clientele – everybody over here kind of has their niche. When you’re out Christmas shopping, it’s nice because there are so many different types of people on your list. We like to think that we offer, as a group, something for almost everybody.”

Each year the shops all band together for Fa-La-La Fatherland, a holiday shopping event that encourages participation with all of the retailers.

“They do a little game every year where you go to the different shops and you can get stamps on a card, and then we have a drawing and give away prizes,” Tieman adds. “People seem to have a whole lot of fun with it.”

Tieman says their shop has started bulking up on items that appeal to more than fisherman in anticipation of holiday shopping, including Yeti Coolers, pocket knives and sunglasses. And, they are about to move from their 400-square-foot location around the corner to one of six larger spaces being built that is expected to open by December.

“This was really good for us to start out in,” Tieman says of the tiny first location. “It takes a lot of money to fill up a larger shop. We’ve always wanted a little more space, and we’re finally able to get it.”

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