Sidewalk Fences Tease Construction of New Retail Venture
Matt Santos and friends are embarking on what might be seen as an audacious project. Despite the pandemic, they’re building an outdoor/lifestyle store in the heart of downtown Davidson—and they’re counting on your help!
The new store is named Davidson Provision Company, or “DavProCo” for short. It’s a 1,000 square foot establishment at 120 South Main Street (two doors down from the bookshop) that will build its inventory and programs based, in part, on what customers say they want. Everything they do will be based on a respect for community and will reflect in some way the store’s three guiding principles—Wander, Dwell, and Sustain.
While the pace of construction of the physical store is dictating the opening, DavProCo is inviting people to be part of the progress by taking a community survey at their website. Though the first brick has yet to be laid, the survey garnered 250 responses in two weeks.
Customers Will Help Determine Inventory
The store is also using an approach they call “community-curated inventory,” that relies on the community to provide input into the inventory. Santos believes that “during this time we need to transition from predicting consumer desires to asking the community to share their needs.”
They also launched an aggressive marketing campaign around the concepts of “Wander, Dwell and Sustain,” and a constant focus on promoting community involvement, even including scavenger hunts on Farmer’s Market days. They’ve also created a robust and attractive web site and are placing “teaser” placards and posters in strategic places downtown. Santos said, “The store will reflect the multiple personas we all maintain. Some days you are an adventurer and want to wander. Other days you’re just looking for a way to Sustain a healthy and active lifestyle. And most days, we Dwell in the place we call home. We believe there is room for all of us.”
The store represents the culmination of a dream for Matt and his spouse, Cailin. Both went to school in the Boston area. Cailin secured her master’s degree in education and Matt worked in the corporate sphere in technology. After their marriage in 2006, they both felt a strong inclination to own a small business. The opportunity arose when Matt’s boss at Bain Capital offered him a transfer to the Charlotte area. As they began house hunting, they were immediately attracted to small-town Davidson.
From River Run to the Heart of the Village
They took Matt’s corporate job and moved into a home in River Run. But it didn’t take long for them to realize that they were too far from the heart of the village, and they began looking for an inner city address. They were fortunate to eventually find a home literally one block from downtown Davidson, as well as space in the Flatiron Building where Cailin could establish her MVMT pilates studio. The next challenge was to find some place where Matt could shed his 20 years in corporate life and also establish a small business and simpler lifestyle.
They knew that the chances of finding a storefront in downtown were minimal but began networking anyway. Then a year ago, they partnered with developers David Stewart and Greg Fallon who had acquired commercial property downtown. Through that relationship and the unconditional support of town economic developer, Kim Fleming, the vision became reality.
When TSG realty presented the storefront, Matt jumped at the opportunity, and began exploring ideas for a viable enterprise. He visited towns throughout the region and liked what he found at Mast General Store and Half Moon Outfitters in Asheville/Greenville. These were tremendous “experiential” style stores, usually reserved for larger markets. Santos believed there was a chance for a “hyper-local” version of this type of store to be successful. If any community could pull it off, he believed Davidson could. He envisioned a store where “your favorite outdoor retailer meets your hometown general store.”
Matt is an avid runner, and Cailin has the Pilates studio, and it seemed like everyone they met in town was into some form of fitness. Instead of limiting their store to a specific discipline, the word “provision” would allow them to cater to a wide variety of fitness-related merchandise. Matt refers to it as “community curated inventory” that could include functional apparel, hammocks, gifts, camping gear, and recovery and nutritional supplements. He said, “This shop will be community driven—a store built for You, with You, and by You.”
He looks forward to building bridges throughout Davidson, alliances with existing fitness groups like DART, F3, cycling groups, and Parks and Rec. He intends for the store to act as a “home base” for activity groups. It’s not just about selling products, but also giving patrons a place to hear a guest speaker, have a group meet-up, discuss recovery options in the area, and just find a place to call home.
The architecture of DavProCo will significantly change Main Street. It will include new front doors facing Main Street, and new back doors that look out over the Farmer’s Market to help bring retail to the backside of Main Street. “We have the double doors next to Wells Fargo that lead to the area behind Summit Coffee. They have been closed for years, and that is all about to change.”
A Tip of the Hat to Collaborators
In light of the emphasis on community involvement, Matt employed as many local associates as possible to help build the business. They include TSG realtor Greg Fallon, Jenison contractors, photographer Jon Beyerle, marketing specialists Shannon O’Geen and Andrea Oliver, artist Brooke Bassinger, consultant Adam Bratton, and music specialist Adam Wilson. They and everyone else involved with the project get a little publicity and tip of the hat on a DavProCo “Community” page. They even plan to have a local makers section to allow local artisans a chance to showcase their work.
The future seems tenuous for brick-and-mortar stores like DavProCo, but Matt is betting on a recovery story. For him it’s all about making your business flexible and “experiential,” involving customers in the business. DavProCo will be partnering with other local businesses, hosting local makers, relaying great running/cycling routes, letting the community suggest merchandise to carry, hosting group runs from the store, and always innovating.
“If retail is going to survive, it’s going to take more than just selling products,” said Santos. “We believe we can offer a lot more to the community we call home.”
The construction fencing that went up recently across the sidewalk obscures the view of what awaits inside. Matt would like to open the store by Christmas but understands it’s a complicated time for construction. Anyway, even as he waits, he’s got a store to build. He concluded, “We’ve got some exciting stuff in the works and we’re ready to get going. There’s no reason we can’t start the fun now!”
To be part of the progress, visit their website.
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.