Small Box Shop Retail Incubator

Daniel Dye / The Herald

Representatives from Main Street Alabama, City of Wetumpka, Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Wetumpka cut the ribbon on a small box shop retail incubator located in downtown Wetumpka.

In partnership with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Main Street Alabama recently opened a small box shop retail incubator in downtown Wetumpka.

The incubator will be managed by Main Street Wetumpka.

“We want to provide a unit where people can test their entrepreneurial spirit,” Main Street Alabama president and state coordinator Mary Helmer said. “This is a small enough place to test and then move into a brick-and-mortar storefront. That is the intent of these in Wetumpka and Heflin.”

Main Street Alabama also opened a second small box shop in Heflin.

For the holiday season, Main Street Wetumpka partnered with the City of Wetumpka and the Chamber of Commerce to host a pop-up Christmas shop in the unit which is located at the intersection of Company and Orlin streets in downtown Wetumpka.

“After the holidays are over, our plan is to put a small business owner in here,” Main Street Wetumpka executive director Jenny Stubbs said. “After six months they will be ready to move to a brick-and-mortar store. We look forward to continue filling these storefronts with new businesses and really changing the landscape of downtown Wetumpka.” 

Businesses interested in using the space will undergo an application process and may stay in the unit for up to six months. 

“We are so excited to be a part of this effort to encourage small business owners to follow their dreams and, in the process, reach goals and thrive through a more feasible and sustainable business model,” Stubbs said.

Potential Small Box Shop entrepreneurs should contact Stubbs at jenny@mainstreetwetumpka.org for more information.

Birmingham architect Eric Tasker came up with the idea to build these shops which are housed inside a steel shipping container. 

“Being in the design world, we are seeing these being used more and more in residential and commercial uses,” he said. “The portability and mobility of them as a pop-up shop just makes sense to help incubate business. 

“The goal is to have a business owner test their market and learn about business before moving to a fixed location. There is a lot of cost involved in brick and mortar. This eases that transition.”

Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis thanked Main Street Wetumpka for leading efforts to bring business back to downtown.

“Wetumpka is a happening place right now,” Willis said. “There is so much going on here now. We have to look back at Main Street and thank them for their leadership, and for the chamber of commerce and what they are doing to help the city of Wetumpka and its elected officials to move this city forward.”

Helmer said Main Street Alabama intends to place a small box incubator in every rural Main Street community as USDA funding allows. 

Main Street Alabama is a non-profit organization which with bringing jobs, dollars and people back to the state’s historic commercial districts. 

According to statistics published by the organization, since June 2014, designated Main Street communities have recorded 447 net new businesses, 2,576 net new jobs, $331,875,488 private investment, $87,038,839 public investment and 89,570 volunteer hours in their downtown districts.