If opening a new business in the midst of a pandemic seems risky, Reneata Griffin isn’t too worried about it. She’s no stranger to risk.
She opened her first gift shop-facial studio hybrid, Beehive, in Colorado right as the 2008 housing market crashed.
“I know how to work within that realm,” she said, sitting behind her register desk dotted with baby doll heads. “It’s not ideal, but what else am I going to do?”
She said it felt right, being next door to her close friend Chad Mize’s gallery, and with his partner Dan Schmidt’s restaurant, Uptown Eats, about to open on the St. Petersburg block.
Besides, Griffin already has a base of clients for her aesthetician business, housed in the back of the shop at 689 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. She takes appointments for facials and waxing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and before the shop opens on Mondays and Thursdays through Saturdays. The shop is open from 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
There’s an air of cool in the shop, with a set of retro rattan couches with a bold orange pattern for guests to sit on and potted plants in the windows.
Items including retro toys, books, planners and posters are given room to breathe in cabinets along the walls or on spread-out tables.
She ordered from vendors that she’s worked with in the past and added new ones, including many locals.
“I wanted to work with small-batch companies,” she said. “I didn’t want to work with big companies. It just felt wrong.”
Griffin said it was important that she carried gifts that are well-made and affordable. She said she also made sure to have a good selection of cards.
“If you find a nice card to send to someone, it’s a thoughtful thing that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on,” she said.
Everything is made in the United States. There are useful things that are stylish, like bottle openers and a small hammer that has a mini tool kit stored in the handle. There are colorful tea towels, pretty little bowls and a bear-shaped cutting board.
There is a fair share of cheeky goods. A local husband and wife duo make carved wood magnets of faces of pop culture icons, like Notorious B.I.G. and Sophia from The Golden Girls.
Artwork from her ex-husband, Hardison L. Collins III, adorns the walls, large colorful pop iconography. A poster of photographs of striking doors from St. Petersburg homes and businesses from local artist Xena Scuderi is a favorite item. Griffin said one customer could identify each one.
She also has skincare, including the seaweed-based line Source Vital. One miracle product in the line is the First Aid oil, which Griffin herself can vouch for.
The shop was a long time coming, but happened rather serendipitously.
Griffin is close friends with Mize. When Mize was originally looking at moving into his current space 2 ½ years ago, Griffin was looking at the spot next door to open her shop.
Things didn’t work out then, but Griffin curated Mize’s Holiday show with items from some of the same vendors she has now. And she kept her aesthetician studio going. Another business, Wax and Hive, moved in to that space. But when they decided to move out, Mize let Griffin know right away that the space would be available.
Griffin said it was the perfect combination of getting the money together and the space becoming available. It came together in about two weeks, including getting products in after a three-day blitz of mass ordering.
People are starting to find the shop. Griffin said that she’s relying on word of mouth, but she recently had her busiest Saturday.
And like any neighborhood shop, she’s got a repeat customer in a quirky man who likes to hang behind the building. They’ve forged a pretty sweet friendship.
One symptom of the pandemic is that some suppliers have become uncommunicative about sending products and things are getting back-ordered. Griffin says that’s going to determine who she works with after the pandemic is over.
But she’ll continue to find offbeat, inexpensive options. And she thinks her selection is unique.
“I like to put thought into what I give somebody,” she said. “I just want to find something that’s fun.”
To learn more, visit neatstpete.com or call (727) 755-7327.