• American Dream Project

A Vendor-Based Model: The Story of the Urban Market

During our search for the Next Great Pop-Up Shop we consistently received inquiries from small businesses and makers who were interested in a physical presence but were hesitant about operating a brick-and-mortar space on their own. We began to explore the concept of a marketplace that could accommodate multiple businesses within one storefront. Turns out those businesses were already up and running in small towns across America and in many places were so popular they had a wait list of vendors wanting space.


How a Vendor-Based Store Works

A vendor-based store provides a brick-and-mortar space for small businesses to sell their merchandise without assuming the storefront operations or overhead.


Merchants are typically responsible for a space fee and percentage of sales, but the owner manages store operations and expenses including rent, utilities, employees and marketing.


Vendors can often choose the size of their footprint depending on the type and volume of their merchandise.


The owner curates the mix of vendors, creates the overall store layout and communicates with merchants when items need restocking. It’s a unique concept that makes for a one-of-a-kind shopping experience and is something that any storefront could incorporate to diversify their merchandise.

A Marketplace in the Mall

Kingsport, TN had an overwhelming amount of interest from local makers and boutiques wanting a presence in the newly renovated Fort Henry Mall. There were already multiple vendor-based concepts operating in the Tri-Cities area and all had an expertly curated mix of vendors and merchandise. We knew we had the space for a vendor-based concept – a former Victoria’s Secret in a very high-traffic location with a perfect layout to accommodate multiple merchants.

We got to know the Urban Market, who had a vision for providing local entrepreneurs with a brick-and-mortar experience in new locations. The Urban Market has a sprawling downtown space filled with character and charm and local merchants offering products from women & children clothing, accessories, home decor, gifts and handmade items. The owners were merchants themselves and had extensive experience in the marketplace concept.

Creating a Unique Marketplace

The only real problem with the Victoria’s Secret space was it's very PINK color and branding! Seeing what a merchant marketplace provided the local small business community, mall owners agreed to revamp the store to create a move-in-ready space for the Urban Market. We worked together to select new floor, paint and design the store with a fresh look and feel that could accommodate local vendors of all types from retail to decor.


Work included replacing the carpet with vinyl plank flooring, painting the pink walls and adding decorative accents. There are many ways to create a unique look without spending a ton of money. Floor and paint were our big expenses so we had to get creative. We found large faux brick panels that were added to create texture in highly visible areas and printed graphics for key sections to create more visual interest.


The owners used the existing framework of the store to create vendor spaces and created matching fixtures to create a cohesive look and feel. The before/after is a true retail transformation and shows what you can do with good bones, a good plan and most importantly a good partnership!


The Rise of the Vendor-Based Retail Model


The vendor-based concept is on the rise because it can work in a variety of retail settings and spaces. Local makers and small businesses looking for a physical presence often band together to start their own marketplace. Existing retailers have also begun to incorporate small vendor-based areas as a way of supplementing their traditional merchandise.


There are so many ways to sell online and home-based businesses are popping up and growing rapidly in towns across the country. We expect to see this trend grow as more small businesses look for physical spaces and opportunities to connect with customers to create more growth for there business. There are many brick-and-mortar spaces out there waiting for the right use and we couldn’t think of anything better than this!

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