Making space

Randolph Record Staff

ASHEBORO — Shoppers who prefer their retail fixes from local businesses don’t typically start at a mall. But a new store at Asheboro Mall is bringing local vendors to the big retail space with the goal of showcasing their creations and offerings through a unique brick-and-mortar experience.

The Maker and Merchant is a multivendor marketplace that offers creators, makers and sellers the opportunity to have the scale of a large retail storefront without many of the burdens that can be a drain — both financially and operationally — for businesses with limited inventory, small production volume or niche products.

The retail industry, including restaurants, is still evolving after the global pandemic in 2020 which accelerated consumers’ shift to e-commerce. Multivendor marketplaces, like The Maker and Merchant or Stock + Grain Food Hall in High Point, are part of a growing trend of shared spaces, cooperation and collaboration. For The Maker and Merchant, Asheboro marks the company’s fifth location and second in North Carolina. The new location’s grand opening was last Friday,

According to the Food Institute, food halls are continuing to grow in the U.S., with 321 food halls in operation in mid-2023 and another 145 in development. In the e-commerce space, platforms like Amazon, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy and eBay have shown the power of combined seller resources, enabling sellers to focus on marketing and manufacturing their products. The Maker and Merchant is offering the same concepts as food halls and e-commerce marketplaces within the traditional retail environment.

Shared space was initially the promise of shopping malls dating back to the mid-1950s when shops began sharing space to lower costs and lure shoppers to the diverse and concentrated offerings that malls and shopping centers offer.  Early shopping centers like Raleigh’s Cameron Village, which opened in 1949, combined national retailers like Sears with local shops and restaurants like Jolly’s Jewelers, Nowell’s Clothing and Balentine’s Cafeteria.

Marketplaces like The Maker and Merchant are applying the same concepts at a store-level scale. At their Auburn location, The Maker and Merchant currently has 46 vendors offering items from candles and soaps to stickers and stationery along with a dozen or more boutique clothing vendors. The Maker and Merchant does not shy away from in-store competition, and the company says it combines similar vendors in the same store.

“We thrive on the power of concentration,” said the company in a blog post about its business model. “By concentrating vendors together, we have become the ‘go to’ place to support and shop small businesses.”

The Maker and Merchant’s five stores are all in malls owned by Asheboro Mall owner Hull Properties, and each has a similar mix of product vendors. “Yes, we have several jewelry makers, but that has made us the place you can find jewelry to match any outfit, style or person,” according to the company.

On Friday, the Asheboro location opened its doors to all shoppers after a private shopping event for vendors and guests on Thursday evening. The store offers dressing rooms and entrances from both the exterior and interior of the mall. Shelf spaces along the walls and table spaces of varying sizes across the floor plan allow vendors to have location and presentation options.

The Asheboro location launched with more than 50 local businesses, and The Maker and Merchant’s sales associates were there to help customers and assist the new vendors. The store is across from Chick-fil-A and is accessible from the mall’s East Salisbury Street entrance.

The company has not released its final list of vendors, but an Instagram preview showed merchants from as far away as Florida and Alabama along with Randolph County-based retailers like Burge Flower Shop, leathercrafter Ivy House Handmade, Randleman clothing boutique Reese & Co., Asheboro bakery Nannie Mae’s and candlemaker Sincerely Candle Co.

By Randolph Record