Marketplace fertilizes young businesses

The Great Western Marketplace in northwest Reno is bursting with spring growth.

The marketplace and small-business incubator opened in late November with a few dozen small vendors. By mid-May, 100 businesses are expected to set up shop.

It has room for 200, said owner Trudy Naumann, of the 167,000-square-foot facility that once housed a Super K-Mart.

Naumann, who is in partnership with her sons Terry and Keith, built her career in the banking and mortgage business and saw a lot of business owners get hurt by the high cost of starting a business, no matter how worthy an idea. She wanted to see new businesses get off to a better start.

“We want to be successful and help them be successful too,” she said. “It’s the position of Great Western to be supportive.”

When she started looking for a space to house a marketplace to serve as an incubator for small retailers, she envisioned something much smaller. But the long-empty K-Mart near Interstate 80 and West McCarran was too good to pass up.

In 2013, she bought the property for $4 million, then went about filling it with up-and-coming businesses through advertising, visiting stores and craft fairs, trade shows and hiring marketing professionals to make contacts.

Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the marketplace is designed as a low-cost alternative for new entrepreneurs, Naumann said.

New business owners don’t have to quit their day jobs to venture into their dream careers. Nor do they have to hire staff to cover a full week of open hours. Most studios are leased for only $400 a month, a huge cost savings for a new business owner.

Although the marketplace is closed four days of the week, shop owners can leave their merchandise set up for the next week. The marketplace provides security for the property.

Most businesses in the Great Western Marketplace are set up in simple open stalls called “studios,” while other vendors, such as new tenant The Marketplace Wine Bar, require a larger space and more construction to prepare it.

Tenants include an eclectic mix of food, produce, meat, gifts, fine arts and crafts, fashion, gadgets, computers, antiques, health products, dog training, heating and air conditioning, tile suppliers, realtors and more. All under one roof.

“The idea is that a family can walk through the door, buy flowers, pick up seafood or meat and vegetables for dinner,” Naumann said. “If they’re looking for a birthday present for Mom, they can find something different and unusual.”

My Nona’s Country Boutique and the Velvet Jewelry Co., were among the first vendors to open Nov. 28, 2014, when the marketplace opened. Both started their businesses at craft fairs.

“We had really bad luck with rainy days,” said Brad Young who owns Velvet Jewelry with his wife Velvet. They sell original art and handmade jewelry that incorporates semi-precious stones, plus home-grown bamboo.

Karla MacLeod at the country boutique grew tired of the constant need to set up at craft fairs.

“Set up a tent; haul stuff in; haul everything back,” she said. “No thanks, I’m done.

“I love it here,” said MacLeod, who sells gourmet dog biscuits, boutique gifts and jewelry from several artisans in her studio in the back corner.

Other vendors are new to the marketplace, and business ownership.

For Lisa Breitmeyer and her husband Jayson, Fantasy Realm Gifts & Collectibles is their first business venture. The weekend of April 10-12 was their third week in the marketplace.

Lisa Breitmeyer said she’s happy with the flow of customers so far, but it could be better. “It’s bump and go right now,” she said.

The Naumanns are working both to fill the remaining booths and to bring in more customers.

“We’re working toward the goal of three to four restaurants in there,” Trudy Naumann said. “We have the ability to do that with the bones left by K-Mart.”

They are working on permits to build an outside dining pavilion and could also bring in food trucks.

Freedom Cycle and Reno Cycles & Gear, which set up OHV displays to help fill the vast space of the marketplace, have been so happy with the inquiries they’ve received that they are working on permits to sell at the marketplace. That should take about a month, Naumann said.

A permanent home show with additional home supply, remodel and repair businesses is planned to occupy another chunk of that space, along with an auction company.

With the mixture of vendors increasing exponentially, Naumann is also looking to drive more business through the doors, sometimes literally.

She sees a huge opportunity with all the new professional companies coming to town and the new people that come with them.

Buses “can drop people off here. They can have a glass of wine, go shopping,” she said.

Putting to use its 19 acres of parking, the venue has also begun hosting special events. In the last month, it’s hosted an Easter-egg hunt, craft show and biker games. More than 900 shoppers came through during the egg hunt, Naumann said.

Upcoming events include the Inaugural Show & Shine, noon-4 p.m. April 25; All Hazards Disaster Preparedness, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 9; and an Art Market, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 23 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. May 24.

We want to participate in Reno events and help nonprofits, Naumann said. “We’re very bullish about that.”

And signs are planned to attract attention from drivers on I-80 and McCarran.

“We believe by the end of this year, we’ll have really great numbers.”


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