Julie Novak used to sew her handmade, one-of-a-kind children's apparel pieces while her children napped.
But since getting a small booth at the Chattanooga Market four years ago, she has increased both the amount of time she spends sewing and the amount of revenue her work brings into the family.
Beginning around the middle of next month, she might have to devote even more time to her business -- Jules Just For Kids. The Chattanooga Market announced last week that it will open The General Store inside Warehouse Row in downtown Chattanooga — and Jules Just For Kids will be one of the businesses helping to stock it.
According to market manager Chris Thomas, the 1,100-square-foot space will serve as a six-day-a-week storefront for selected vendors from the traditional Sunday market at the First Tennessee Pavilion.
Two full-time employees will man the store Monday-Saturday, and individual vendors will take turns doing in-store demonstrations and meet-the-vendor sessions each month, he said.
The store will operate on a consignment type of setup, he said.
Thomas said he has been working with Warehouse Row management for months to hammer out the details. As part of the agreement, General Store vendors, which have not all been selected, will not compete with existing retailers, he said. Thomas said the store will not carry fresh produce, at least at first, or jewelry, for example, because there already are similar retailers in Warehouse Row.
"We will rank our Top 5 vendors in selected categories that are eligible and invite them to come down to participate," he said. "We'll have nonperishable foods, leather goods, pottery, metalworks, furniture and some clothing."
Warehouse Row leasing manager Kelly Scott said the concept fits the overall mission of the retail center and is designed so the vendors and the General Store will "complement and not compete."
"We are trying to build a unique shopping experience for everyone," she said. "This gives us something for the many men that are now working here, and it also is wonderful for the tourists who can't get to the market on Sunday."
For Novak, the move is a logical next step for her business, an opportunity to potentially increase her sales without the inherent risks involved with opening her own store or selling her product through an existing retailer.
"It's a great way for vendors who already have a great presence to display year round," she said.
"You have to ask yourself daily if this is a hobby or a business. We are constantly asking ourselves: How do you do wholesale and retail?" she said. "And this might give us that first step without giving up what we do at the market. This allows me to sell it myself, through the market."
Carl Pendergras, who makes and sells copper water fountains and dry sculptures through Carl's Copper, said having the Warehouse Row storefront is a win-win for the city, the artists and the tourism industry.
"I think it is a tremendous opportunity to be part of the art district that is growing in Chattanooga," he said.
"My fountains are in homes all over the country — Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Atlanta — thanks to the market. People come from all over and, when they see what is here, they will come back to see what new vendors are there and what new items they have."
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...