Money is tight, and businesses throughout the province are feeling the penny-pinching of potential clients. But entrepreneurs like Alison Sturge are figuring out creative ways to stay afloat.
Sturge opened Garage 606, an antique shop on the west end of Water Street, eight years ago. To counter Newfoundland’s newfound economic woes, she’s added a coffee bar to give her customers more options. “Ultimately I want traffic coming through my door. If I have only antiques, it would narrow my market.”
Running a food establishment was always a dream for Sturge but she didn’t dream of running it at 606 Water Street. Just over a year ago, she tried to sell the building to invest in a cafe. But, after a year on the market and very little activity, she decided to weather the economic storm. With a meagre $500 budget, she added a rustic coffee bar to her existing business.
Using reclaimed wood, her husband made a bar and bistro table. She uses her kitchen at home in Topsail to bake the treats, and brews delightful roasts at the shop.
Sturge relaunched the business in November just in time for the Christmas rush. But the winter months were tough and she needed to diversify even more to adapt to the fast changing economy. This spring she teamed up with fashion entrepreneurs and siblings, Tia and Danica Santuccione of Bestkind Finds. “You can’t be the king or queen of any one region. The people who shop in the stores down here, shop for different things.”
The Santuccione sisters are helping with the coffee bar, sharing space, and running their vintage and designer clothing venture at 606 Water Street. Sturge says it’s a partnership that works for everyone, and dubs it a pop up in an established business. And she didn’t stop there. Believing that when small companies work together, everyone benefits, she decided to help neighbouring business, Rock, Paper, Flowers with their Community Supported Agriculture partnership.
The crafty gift shop on the west end of Water Street is a pickup location for community sharing produce boxes. The response from people in the downtown area was so big, Rock, Paper, Flowers needed overflow space. Sturge is chipping in and offering up some space for the veggies at Garage 606. She hopes when people come to pick up their produce, they’ll check out what she has to offer.
As if antiques, vintage duds, coffee, and veggies weren’t enough, Sturge is also getting into the computer business. She’s offering up some space to another group of entrepreneurs to open an IT bar. “They don’t have the resources to man a place for an eight hour day so, they’re piggybacking on us.”
For Sturge, sharing space helps small businesses flourish and keeps hers open. She hopes that through a community business approach, the west end of Water Street can become more of a hub for the downtown area.
“What I’ve found is that Water Street West is really coming along because the rents are lower than they are in the central core. And the business owners who come down here are really passionate about what they want to do.”
Sturge will soon have cafe tables on the street for people who want to sit outside on their lunchbreak, and she says in this economy, if people want to brown bag lunch and hang out on Water Street West, Garage 606 is open.
I know how good Alison Sturge’s treats are, the coffee shop looks delightful! I can’t wait to try it when I am next in St. John’s.
Great story! Ms. Sturge is creative, community-minded and energetic in her effort to keep her business viable. She sets a good example for new entrepreneurs and established businesspersons alike.
The Overcast, too, sets a good example by reporting on some good news, not just doom and gloom, in local business.