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One Monticello Life: The Marketplace, Drew County’s Industry of the Year

November 21st, 2010 by

 

MonticelloLive on Vimeo.

The Drew County Industry of the Year award was recently presented to Launius Enterprises, also known as The Marketplace, at the MEDC/Chamber of Commerce banquet. The Marketplace is a 47,000 square foot building in which space is offered to individuals and businesses in order to sell their products. This week’s One Monticello Life tells of the beginning and growth of The Marketplace and its owners, Gene and Shelly Launius.

When Gene and Shelly Launius moved to Monticello from Hector in order for Gene to continue his education in forestry, an idea like The Marketplace never crossed their minds. Years later after owning J&L Timber Company and Prestige Home Furnishings, they purchased the old building that currently houses The Marketplace in hopes to lease the property to other companies. After numerous failed attempts, Gene had an idea and started the wheels rolling.

The Marketplace opened in September of 2009 with 77 booth spaces available and one man’s dream of becoming “THE” place to shop in Southeast Arkansas. The booths completely filled up within a few months so work quickly began to open up more of the building for additional spaces. Located at 249 Hwy 425 North in what most Monticellonians remember as the old Safeway grocery store, The Marketplace currently has 190 retail booth spaces between two parts of the building with future plans of more being added once the third phase of the building is finished.

On an average week The Marketplace sees anywhere from 700 to 1,000 individuals walk through the doors. Many of these visitors are from outside Monticello and even from surrounding states. The busiest day of the week at The Marketplace is Saturday when people pack the place from open to close. Once a quarter The Marketplace goes all out in hosting a 2 day Sale-A-Bration with plenty of refreshments, special prices and sales in each booth and numerous vendors on hand to meet the customers. On a Saturday during one of the quarterly sales, The Marketplace has seen over 1,000 customers coming in and out. For the most part these additional visitors to the Monticello area make a day of it by visiting restaurants and other shops while they are in Monticello.

So, how does a place like The Marketplace actually work as far as the vendors are concerned? A multi-vendor mall like The Marketplace can work in a variety of ways, but at The Marketplace it’s simple. You rent your space, tag your items with their price and booth number then display your items to sell. The Marketplace provides its own staff to work on behalf of each vendor. They take care of everything from assisting customers to ringing up purchases. Most multi-vendor malls have their own set of rules and regulations as to what they allow and what they do not allow. For instance, The Marketplace does not allow used clothing or shoes for fear of the “flea market” stereotype normally associated with this type of inventory. Vendors are allowed to have their own rummage sale outside of the building on Saturdays for items like used clothes and shoes. Of course, it is what each vendor puts in to it. Some vendors go all out in creating their own unique “shop-like” areas even decorating for each season as they come. What started out as a way for individuals to sell a few things they no longer needed has quickly grown to over 100 individual businesses catering to a variety of interests.

According to Gene and Shelly, the biggest obstacle they’ve had to overcome is acquiring the financing to renovate the property as well as investing many long hours to keep it going. When asked what they enjoy most about The Marketplace, the Launiuses stated, “Working with the vendors and helping them achieve their goals for their business. We have a strong core of vendors that invest a lot of time and effort in making The Marketplace a great place to shop.” What most people do not realize is that for a lot of the vendors, their booth space at The Marketplace is their second job. It’s a way to supplement their income in an otherwise tough economy. For others, it’s a full-time business that they could not otherwise afford to have if not for The Marketplace. “Renting or leasing space, hiring and training employees, advertising and investing in enough product to fill the shelves is a huge investment and risk for anyone to take these days. Being able to do everything on a much smaller scale by renting space at The Marketplace has allowed smaller businesses to open and flourish in our area without the risk of losing everything,” stated vendor Wendy Tassin.

If there’s anything the community needs to know about The Marketplace, it’s that it is not just a place for women to shop. There are plenty of things for the men, too and the selection is ever-changing. Items like new hunting boots, Columbia clothing, tools, and let’s not forget all the gift items when you need something quick for the lady in your life.

Since it’s opening, The Marketplace has created 10 jobs for Monticello, turned an eyesore in the community into a thriving business and is continually adding sales tax money to the economy.

The Marketplace offers more than 200 booths providing an ever-changing selection to satisfy everyone’s taste and budget. Hours for The Marketplace are: Monday-Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 9am-6pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm. Booth sizes and prices are: 10’x12’=$90, 10’x10’=$75, 5’x10’=$40 and odd sized booths are priced per square foot. Future plans for The Marketplace include developing the outparcels of the property to make it a premier shopping and dining place for Southeast Arkansas. Gene and Shelly attribute the success of The Markeplace to all the vendors who have adopted their dream for establishing a place where everyone can afford to shop for the most unique gift items as well as new clothing, jewelry, health and beauty items, antiques, furniture and home decor in Southeast Arkansas. For more information, call 870-723-4988.

2 Responses to “One Monticello Life: The Marketplace, Drew County’s Industry of the Year”

  1. Andy Briant says:

    CONGRATULATIONS to Gene and Shelly on winning the industry of the year award and on a dream realized with a wonderful edition to Monticello and Southeast Arkansas!!!…AND with the recent addition of the “Music Box” in the Marketplace, Monticello once again has a music store(albeit a small one)!!!

  2. Rick Hales says:

    What a creative and brilliant way to turn an empty building into a profitable asset for the community. Way to go Gene & Shelly!

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