SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Township Trading Co. wound up at 421 Northern Blvd. because of a personal grooming trip made last fall by the husband of one of its owners.
“He was getting his hair cut a couple of doors down, at the barber, and walked by and saw this space was for rent,” said Heather Percival, standing inside the building near racks of new duster sweaters, dresses and pairs of shoes. “It did not look like this in here at that time.”
The address, which had previously been used as an office for a mortgage company and also by a doctor to see patients, required renovations, including knocking down walls, if it was going to serve as a retail center before.
“We had a lot of work ahead of us,” said Lisa Burke, the other owner, standing near displays of handmade candles. “But we did it ourselves and we did it fast because we knew we had to get open before the holidays. We did a total transformation.”
They beat the clock, and Township Trading Co.’s first day of business was Nov. 11.
It is an unusual enterprise. The shop is the retail home for Burke’s business Luminosa Designs through which she sells candles, fragrance melts, home and body sprays, perfumes, bath products and other goods of her own manufacture.
Grace Antony Boutique, owned by Percival, is set up across an aisle from Luminosa Designs. The boutique sells clothing, accessories, shoes and other items aimed at women of different ages.
“Both of us, we’re all in on this,” Burke said.
Luminosa Designs and Grace Antony Boutique had been home-based businesses. Their owners would set up displays at area fundraising events and vendor shows. That’s how they met, and that’s where they began discussing a way to put a permanent roof over their stores.
“We started talking about the idea of bringing our home businesses together,” Percival said. “And that developed into, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a place for small businesses to all come together and have a brick-and-mortar place?’”
In addition to the stores operated by its two owners, Township Trading Co. carries merchandise from a dozen other local sellers. The products include wine, chocolate, roasted coffee, canned sauces, leather goods and home décor items. Percival’s brother, Bryan Kerns, sells wine racks made from wooden pallets.
The vendors sign a contract and pay a fee to Percival and Burke for the amount of space they occupy in the store. Some have small sections of the floor and portions of the walls while others have just a rack on which they display their products.
Township Trading Co.’s owners staff the store and handle the checkout duties. When a sale is made involving merchandise from one of the vendors, all proceeds are remitted to the sellers.
“We decided that early on. We did not want to take a piece of their sales,” Percival explained.
“We are small business owners, too,” added Burke.
Approaching the three-month anniversary of the opening, the co-owners said they are satisfied with the consumer response to the business. Sales, they said, have covered their expenses. They signed a two-year lease and are prepared to allow Township Trading Co. the time to establish a larger commercial following.
“We have slow days; welcome to retail,” Percival said. “We’re in the lull after the holidays. And we still have foot traffic coming in.”
“I’m very pleased with the amount of traffic we had,” Burke said.
Neither woman expects online sales, currently non-existent, will ever contribute even a minor part of revenues at Township Trading Co. Most of the inventory, both theirs and products from vendors, is made in small batches or is a handmade item. Listing them online at the same time they are on a shelf is a logistical challenge. When a product is purchased online, it would have to be removed from a shelf. An item bought inside the store would have to be taken off the website.
While e-commerce isn’t a part of the business, social media outreach is a key method by which the owners communicate news about the shop. Burke and Percival are active users of Facebook and Instagram, and they try to post whenever products are added to their inventories.
“People respond,” Percival said. “They hurry to get in here because it’s something new, it is something different, it is something handmade or it is something unique that you can’t find everywhere.”
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