Fall 2010 Carts Across America, Fall 2010

These specialty leasing operations give a snapshot of what’s selling in the United States.

Elyse Duffy’s Wrapped Up In Ribbons at the King of Prussia Mall, King of Prussia, PA

Kristin Larson Contino

After working for a designer in New York and a Connecticut-based ribbon wholesaler, Elyse Duffy decided to start her own business. She opened Wrapped Up In Ribbons, a cart selling high-end decorative ribbons, at King of Prussia Mall in June.

Duffy sells ribbons by the spool, yard, or small bag, as well as a selection of gift wrap and hair accessories. The ribbon ranges in cost from 25 cents per yard to $6 per yard. Additions of greeting cards and ‘how-to’ bow kits are in the works.

Visual merchandising is important for Wrapped Up In Ribbons. Duffy has found her typical customer likes to browse ribbon by color and not by type. She arranges her products with this in mind.

Duffy started a Facebook page where she posts special offers, and had a postcard created with professional photos of her product in use. She is looking into creating a frequent buyer program and creating video tutorials to demonstrate how to use ribbons for Do-It-Yourself projects. Duffy would eventually like to turn Wrapped Up In Ribbons into a franchise concept.

“I always believed I was going to be selling ribbon as an accessory. It’s not about the ribbon, it’s simply a step along the way—the accessory to a wrapped gift, a scrapbook page, or a dinner setting,” Duffy says. “Ribbon helps accentuate the main products in our lives and I’m here to provide the variety and quality that many of my customers say they can’t find elsewhere,” she adds.

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Merry and Rob Martin’s Merry’s in Pueblo Mall, Pueblo, CO

Bentley Covey

When Merry Martin was on vacation a while ago, she spotted a purse that was able to sport many looks interchangeably. She was hooked. Merry and her husband, Rob, figured that in a weak economy, such novel ideas would work well.

Since then, the Martins have applied the switching, interchangeable concept successfully to launch a cart, Merry’s, at the Pueblo Mall in Pueblo, CO. The Martins credit the mall’s specialty leasing manager, Cory Davis, for helping them get off to a good start.

Merry likes to describe the products sold as “for the fashion-forward woman in a strapped economy.” The Martins sell Miche bags, Lindsay Phillips SwitchFlops and shoes, Bauble Lulu interchangeable beads, Alexa’s Angels inspirational jewelry and prayer box bracelets. S.T.A.M.P.S. watches and accessories are her newest products. The accessories are intended to complement each other—so there’s a strong potential for upselling.

It’s been six months since Merry’s opened and the Martins have already moved from a small cart to a larger kiosk. She places products around the kiosk so customers can “get the feel” of the product and actually do some interchanging of accessories as well. She says increased sales have outweighed the risk of theft.

Merry is grateful to have found her niche in the marketplace. “It is interchangeable, reasonable accessories in hard economic times,” she says.

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Letta Forrest and Michael Simon’s Fresh Bakery in Towson Town Center, Towson, MD

Duffy Weir

“It’s hip to be square and everything we do is square,” says Letta Williams, co-owner of Fresh Bakery, Baltimore, Maryland’s cupcake concept open in five local shopping centers. Williams’ good friend, Michael Simon is the other co-owner. The full service bakery specializes in cupcakes but also offers cakes, special occasion cakes, cookies, brownies, pastries and muffins.

“I wanted to do something I was passionate about. I always loved to bake and I have this creative side of me that wants to make things pretty,” says Williams, a former sales and marketing executive. As a point of differentiation from the competition, Williams thought of a “deliciously square” cupcake, and now everything she bakes is square. She spent six months testing recipes and her best seller, the red velvet cupcake, is her aunt’s recipe. Fresh Bakery features a different cupcake-of-the-day with mouth-watering names like Cape Cod Carrot Cake, Savannah Upside Down Pineapple Cake, and Bubble Gum Cake.

In May, Fresh Bakery opened a location at Towson Town Center following several months of research. Fresh Bakery also has carts at Owings Mills Mall, White Marsh Mall, The Mall in Columbia and Arundel Mills. The health department requirements varied by each county and the process averaged about 30 days. Williams employs six bakers and a sales staff of 22. Price points range from $2.59 for a single cupcake to $24.99 per dozen.

For more information, please visit freshbakeryonline.com.

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Mahlon Williams’ I Love Boston Sports in Derby Street Shoppes, Hingham, MA

Duffy C. Weir

In 2007, Mahlon Williams accepted a casting call for “Pros vs. Joes,” a reality television show that pits pro players from different sports teams with “average Joe athletes.” In Williams’ case, he came out the winner beating pro basketball players at their own game. Shortly thereafter, his Wheaton College classmate suggested he capitalize on his sporting fame and “I Love Boston Sports” was born.

But Williams is far from your “average Joe.” The T-shirts have become so popular, they have been seen on Good Morning America and Saturday Night Live. Price points range between $20-$22 per shirt. The best selling T-shirts are “The Boston Tea Party” that depicts Boston athletes throwing their rivals into the Charles River and the “Lebron James NOPE shirt” which casts Lebron out of the Boston Celtics.

The two-year-old company has two locations—a cart at the Derby Street Shoppes, in Hingham, MA, as part of a summer marketplace cart program and a store at Legacy Place in Dedham, MA.

Williams attributes his success to having great creative resources to design his T-shirts and to property owner, WS Development. Beyond having the right location, he ascribes his success to the relationship he has developed with the management team.

Williams’ brother, Stephen; and sister, Tere, are involved in the business whose motto is: “Wear your heart on your sleeve and never underestimate the power of ‘cool’ and the lengths a customer will go to obtain it.”

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