From mobile retail to storefront...the journey

If you've been following Zee Bee Market since the very first time I brought our Fair Trade products, back in June 2012, you'd know we've come a long way! That event took place near my home in the Shaw Neighborhood in South St. Louis. 


Participating at the Annual Thurman Loop Fest taught me three things: 1) get a tent right away (sunny all day and I got a sunburn!); 2) get a credit card acceptance plan, and 3) re-order merchandise immediately as I sold almost half of what I started the day with! Customers LOVED the handmade gifts I brought and especially the story behind them.

Now, let's fast forward two years of busy weekends, meeting awesome people, selling gorgeous Fair Trade gifts from around the world throughout Metro St. Louis, I realized I could not expand the product assortment and keep growing due to space limitations. After all, everything I bring to markets has to fit in my Honda CRV (including a tent, chair, etc.)

What to do? Customers kept suggesting I open a brick and mortar store. It seemed the right thing to do, but I wanted to make sure I found the right location! The thriving South Grand District seemed the perfect place and I set out to find it. I was fortunate to meet Rachel Witt, the Executive Director, and she was instrumental in finding our home! 

The shop is about 800 square feet and it's located in the south end of the district. Address is 3211. Here are some pictures of the shop before any updates.



From left to right. Storefront the way I saw it first; street view from inside, side wall covering the walkway that connected this space with neighbor retail shop, Cheap Trx. 


Left photo shows the artistic wall decor of the former shop (this is a bathroom) and the "fitting room" with red velvet ceiling!

As you can see, there was quite a bit of work that needed to be done and we had a Grand Opening target date of mid October. Next big step was to sign the lease. Now, that's not as easy as you'd think. There is so much legal stuff I don't know I had to ask a good friend to translate. He was key in making sure all clauses were right and fair. The trouble is, it delayed the process going back and forth so much, we didn't take possession of the space until October 7.

Thankfully I'd contacted several contractors, flooring specialists and electricians before. Selected the best and the ones willing to start the work right away. Here are photos during construction.


First thing's first. Covered the front window so passersby could not see what was going on. I decided to remove the nasty carpet in the shop (to save some money) and removed all the slat wall pieces throughout. Found a few nice ones that sold right away.


Electrical work began and there was light! Next was prepping wall. Employee bathroom's wall color ... uhmmm. Walls seemed ready for get some primer on. Contractor thought it would take one coat, but more was needed...a total of four coats!


A large order of materials from Home Depot arrived, including bamboo flooring! What a difference white primer made on the walls.

The bamboo flooring looks so much nicer now that it's all installed! And after another coat of paint...


Look how clean the green paint looks, and we love this shade of green as it picks up the leaf detail color in the Zee Bee Market logo! We're very excited about it.

Today we assembled the FIRST of about a hundred fixtures that will start to bring the store to life!

And after a long trip to the nearest Ikea (why can't ours in St. Louis be done already?), more tables and fixtures made their way to the store, plus some track lighting. This is a view of the front window with brand new LED lights. Can't wait for merchandise to start popping up. 

Of course a LOT of work when into getting the store finally ready for the Grand Opening. I could not have done had it not been for the help of family and friends. I'm forever grateful to everyone!

These two photos captured the organized chaos we faced two nights before the magical Friday, November 7!


We had a wonderful Grand Opening Gala to benefit Partners for Just Trade, a St. Louis based nonprofit organization that works with Fair Trade artisan groups in Peru, Haiti, Cambodia and Egypt. Our customers and friends helped us raise $720 for PJT!

Fr. O'Toole, St. Margaret of Scotland Church Pastor, joined us and blessed the store. 

We also had the company of Megan Green, Alderwoman of the 15th Ward. She helped cut the ribbon!

The rest, as they say, is history. We are super excited to have joined the South Grand Business District and look forward to bringing more Fair Trade to more people in St. Louis. Please drop by and say hi




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