Thursday, July 12, 2012

want to cut your business' rent, utilities + payroll? share your space

It doesn’t take a brilliant mind to realize that burritos and beers go together.

And many Portland purveyors of food and beverage have figured out ways to creatively share business spaces. Our first list of examples was concerned with those sharing due natural proximity and complementary offerings: There are the bars that allow cart food, the pizza makers that deliver to bars, and the Mexican restaurant that serves other bars and shares a bathroom with a strip joint.

But, another group of inventive Portlanders are thinking about complementary offerings in a different way, breeding strange and even more interesting bedfellows.

Have you ever considered how you could share your retail space with other businesses? Could you save considerably on your overhead, whether that’s rent, utilities or even employees?

And if you were to enter into such a situation, what kind of agreement should you have in place?

Let a few Portland business owners doing just this explain.

The Completely Shared Retail Space

The owners of three independently owned businesses—Salvage Works, Solabee Flowers and Boys' Fort—affectionately refer to their shared space as The Fort.

“Each business is an independent entity, but we share one retail space completely seamlessly. So, all three of our stuff is mixed in the room," says Alea Joy of Solabee Flowers.

And while those businesses include a seller or reclaimed and vintage building materials, a pair of floral designers, and a men’s retailer that supports a collective of more than 60 artists and craftspeople, "The ascetic is seamless,” Joy describes. “It works as a business model because essentially what we've created is a worker-owned collective. We kind of just stumbled into it.”

The owners of each individual business have known each other more than a year now and each has collaborated with the others in the past. All three came together because, "We were looking for a place to move, and we all really liked working together, and we all are dedicated to the neighborhood of Kenton," Joy explains.

Across town on NW 23rd Avenue, another pair of indie business—one an optical retailer that’s been locally owned for more than a century and the other a team of jewelry designers still in their nascent years—are also gracefully sharing a single retail space.

Touting “curated artisan attire,” The Specialty Store came into existence when Sticks & Stones Accessories and the long-standing eyewear professionals Reynolds Optical decided to collaborate, renaming and revamping the offerings of the once optical-only shop to include singular, high-quality items from around the world.

Sticks & Stones’ Art Director Marc Ishida says his company has always looked up to Reynolds because of its independence and longevity. “In my opinion, that's a pretty big milestone in this community to have an independently owned business that's been around that long," Ishida says.

Each business had a mutual appreciation for the other and saw an opportunity because Reynolds had plenty of extra room in its northwest location. The goal is “to offer something to Portland that you can't get anywhere else, which is why it's called Specialty Store—finding things you can't find anywhere else in Portland or even the West Coast for a lot of these brands,” Ishida explains.

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Find out more about the benefits of and advice for sharing your business' space on Neighborhood Notes.

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