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Small businesses sharing spaces for mutual benefit

Virginia Bautista isn't shy. The 66-year-old newcomer to St. Petersburg recently walked through the door of Revolve Clothing Exchange at 2000 Fourth St. N to pitch her business to the hip managers and owners. She walked out with a deal to open Fabric to Fashion in a corner of the store.

"I'm not one to sit around and wait for the good fortune to come to me," said the custom seamstress. "I asked them if they were interested and they kind of hesitantly said, 'Yeah, whatever.' "

She's confident she'll win them over with her sewing and marketing talents and the new customers she brings into the store, which specializes in new, recycled and vintage clothing for young men and women.

"In these difficult times people are realizing that they cannot do it alone. They truly are relying on connections and collaborations," said Shrimatee Ojah Maharaj, manager of the city of St. Petersburg's Business Assistance Center. "Don't be shy about going to ask someone, 'Hey, can we work together?' They may not even realize there could be a good mix with their product and another that really brings about a good synergy."

Setting up shop in a corner of Simple Living at 1100 First Ave. N two years ago allowed Robert Davidson, owner of Davidson Fine Arts, to keep his business alive. Karrie Klement, owner of Fiberologie fabric shop, is reopening her business inside Whim So Doodle at 237 Second Ave. S after having to close her own shop on Fourth Street in April.

"In these economic times I couldn't sustain staying in my little place by myself," Klement said. "I didn't want to give up on it because I really think we need this here."

Along with selling the Amy Butler line of bold prints on cotton, Fiberologie will offer a range of sewing education including beginner classes.

"We're going to have eight sewing machines back there all the time," said Jill Orobello, owner of the 12-year-old Whim So Doodle. "Fiberologie had a lot of young moms who were making the diaper bags and things and those moms are the ones who get interested in preserving their memories so we're thinking it will make a good fit."

Instead of collecting rent, Whim So Doodle will take a percentage of the receipts from Fiberologie classes. Scrapbooking customers are expected to buy fabric because the memory preservation hobby is becoming more of a multimedia art. In turn, Fiberologie customers will buy from the scrapbook store's ribbon collection for their creations.

Robert Davidson combined forces with another small business in 2008 when the shop at 725 Central Ave., where Davidson Fine Art custom framing had been since 1996, was demolished.

"We were trying to pare our expenses down. The recession had already begun," Davidson said. He paid the owners of Simple Living furniture store $800 a month to set up Davidson Fine Art in 800 square feet in the corner of their store. The rent was about the same as what he paid on Central Avenue, but he didn't have to pay for the utilities, security system and garbage collection.

"We came very close to not making it," Davidson said. In October 2009, Simple Living decided to close, but by then Davidson was able to take over the lease. He has changed the name to Artful Living and now sells eclectic art on consignment.

Artful Living has items such as soy candles, crayons shaped like Legos, teapots and mustaches, vintage rock posters and furniture made from reclaimed trees found in the local dump. He took over Simple Living's lease on a large format printer and continues to run the frame shop. He's also selling the remainder of Simple Living's furniture on consignment. Sales are not back to the level they were at his original shop, but they are growing.

Bautista hopes sales at Fabric to Fashion, her shop within a shop at Revolve, will build to the level she enjoyed at the shop she had by the same name in San Antonio, Texas.

"I did all types of custom sewing there, wedding gowns, evening gowns from a pattern or a sketch," she said. Along with custom work, she will be on hand to make alterations on clothes sold at Revolve since some vintage pieces need some reworking.

"It's beneficial to everybody. Anything I do, they can have a percentage," Bautista said. "A small business like myself, I can kind of piggyback with someone who is really rolling."

Small businesses sharing spaces for mutual benefit 12/28/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 1:34pm]
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