When rents get to a point of putting business out of business, the answer could be to collaborate.
That’s exactly the answer that Everett’s Gerly Adrien and her fiancée, David Lindsey, arrived at this year when they were looking to expand their nut-free ice cream business, Tipping Cow in Somerville – landing with two friendly business partners in what is the first shared business space in Boston.
The venture will be known at Monumental Market, and will be located on JP’s busy Centre/South Streets corridor. Adrien said they hope to open on May 1.
“Our goal since we bought Tipping Cow last year was to expand soon to another location,” she said. “We looked in Everett, but it was way too expensive. So, we started looking in Boston neighborhoods because retail space was a little less. We knew someone who was looking to sell their business in JP, and we bought her out.”
That was the long-standing Monumental Cupcakes in JP, but the story didn’t end there.
For their ice cream, they had been working with a nut-free bakery, and that owner was looking for a permanent spot after spending much time at Farmer’s Markets. That was Kelsey Munger of Lavender Bee Baking Company, and she also brought to the table Javier Amador Pena, of El Colombiana Coffee.
Immediately, the three began meeting to see if they could work together and cut costs, while also offering an exciting, community-oriented space.
“We are basically three businesses partnering up because the rent in Boston is very high,” she said. “We have been meeting every week since December to see what a partnership will look like at the market…We were already buying baked goods from Kelsey. She started out at Farmer’s Markets. Javier also does Farmer’s Markets and knew Kelsey from that circuit. Both were looking for a space at the same time we were…If you meet us, our businesses are community-driven and we all really want to run a space where the community can come together.”
Working with the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), they were able to iron out all the details and make sure the licenses would work and the legalities were straightened out.
“We want to be the first to do this, so we wanted to make sure to do it right,” said Adrien.
The way it will work is that all three businesses will have a separate area where they will sell their products within the space. However, there will be one point of sale. So, a customer could get a cup of coffee from Colombiana, and an ice cream cone from Tipping Cow, and check out with a worker from Lavender Bee.
While they will certainly cut costs in sharing the rent, Adrien said they will further cut costs by sharing workloads and employees. She said she and Lindsey – as well as the other owners – and the youth employees Tipping Cow has hired, will be cross-trained for each business and its products.
“We will operate as three different stores, but where you can buy everything in one smooth transaction,” she said. “We will split the rent, split the marketing budget and split the employee expenses. It really helps us to get going and our goal is to grow and branch out and open another location just like this at some point.”
Adrien, who has run for public office in Everett twice in recent years, said the new venture in Somerville with Lindsey has ignited her long-time love of small business and small, minority-owned businesses.
Growing up in Everett Square, she said she often loved the diversity of the stores and the fact that a family could support themselves with a business in the Square.
“I then went to corporate America and it was a totally different dynamic,” she said. “Black Enterprise was my favorite magazine growing up. I would read the stories of small, black-owned businesses and I always wanted to be in the Top 10 list.”
Adrien said they plan to really focus on employing young people in JP, and they also plan to give a percentage of their profits back to the community.