Northside Fertile Ground For Women-Owned Businesses

There exists in Northside an uncommon density of businesses owned, and more often than not operated, by women.  There's the eclectic deli Melt, and its sister market store, Picnic and Pantry. Take the Cake (a café), and Cluxton Alley Coffee Roasters (a beans and grounds boutique and sort-of café), are right at home besides bar and community hubs like Mayday and Sidewinder. There's also shops trading in one-of-a-kind items, such as Nvision (consignment and craft), Fabricate (indie craft), and Chicken Lays an Egg (you name it). Add in neighborhood salons like Pinnokios and Taylor Jameson.  And they're all owned by women.

Walking through Northside's business district one can scarcely get from Chase Avenue to Knowlton's Corner without passing a block featuring a woman-owned business.  Yet this quirk is something that is far from a widely-known fact.  If this is, in fact, the quietest revolution in history, it may be owed to the fact that the women who opened these businesses didn't think they were doing anything all that remarkable. For several, the genesis of the business was simply seeing an opportunity or need in the community and moving on it. 

Emily Buddendeck opened Nvision two and a half years ago, and sells consignment home furnishings and artist-created, artist-"modified" clothing.

"Basically, prior to this I'd been running galleries, involved in galleries, as an artist. I knew a lot of artists who were making things," she says. "This is a way to blend the two -- just within the context that it all relates to each other. It's an aesthetic."

For Buddendeck, opening in Northside had nothing to do with seeing other women succeed there. "It was opportunistic," she explains.  In other words: the space was vacant and the rent was affordable. That her boyfriend was running The Comet, two doors down, didn't hurt, she admits. The community is supportive, too.

"[In Northside] I don't think it's particularly a matter of it being women. That just happens to be how it is. I think it just supports owner-operators in general."

Down Hamilton Avenue, south of Blue Rock Road, Chris Salley is perched on a seat at Fabricate, a store that, in her words, is "indie craft focused." Fabricate sell t-shirts, postcards, home décor, business-card holders -- the list goes on.  All made by local craftsmen and very often, craftswomen.  Salley went into business with Aileen McGrath on Fabricate and echoes Buddendeck in identifying independence as a more crucial ingredient than femininity when it comes to risk-taking and success here. She says, "I'm not sure it's a type of woman. It's a type of person."

Still, there exists something of an espirit-de-corps among many of the Northside business owners. Salley points out: "We, and the women from Mayday and Chicken Lays an Egg, all got dinner just the other night." She notes that that kinship seems driven more by genuine friendship and sense of community than by the professional undertaking they all hold in common.  

Most of these new business owners seem unfazed by the fact that not too long ago, owning a business would have been an unlikely scenario for them.  Across the street from Fabricate, Janice Young has launched Cluxton Alley Coffee Roasters. Young, a long time Northside resident, attests to a shift that has enabled young women to be "pioneers." She explains, supportively, "I think it's more [about] self-expression. It's the love for community and wanting to invest in it. And maybe that's a women's issue."

Young notes that many of Northside's newest business owners were also residents first and committed to the pervading idea of community.
"I moved to Northside in 1982 and rehabbed my home and loved the community," says Young. "And rehabbing the house wasn't enough, so I did this place. It's the rehabber in me wanting to upgrade my community."

Salley, also a resident, takes a personal role in building a better Northside, too - albeit with an approach that mirrors Young's "residents into businesses" model. Through her business, Salley regularly comes in contact with folks in the market for new digs and she always tries to convert them into residents. She proudly owns up to pushing the neighborhood -  a tic she explains by unabashedly quipping, "I'm a Northside nerd." She can point to the fond memories of her own move-in day ("My neighbors baked me brownies") and the general helpfulness that abounds. Her recruits often end up as her neighbors, people looking to be part of and support a creative, artistic community of small businesses. 

Alisha Budkie, an organizer with Crafty Supermarket, (a sort of mobile version of Fabricate that features the handiwork of local do-it-yourselfers), moved to Northside at Salley's urging. She also makes shoes under the label Smartfish which she sells at the Crafty Supermarket.  When she's ready for a retail outlet, she says, "[Fabricate] will be the first place."

Budkie's budding business recalls an example cited by Young of a neighbor who now "bakes probably thirty cakes a day," running a de facto business out of her home.  For Young,the common thread between these women in Northside has more to do with the need to create, to contribute, to control one's own day-to-day. These are traits common to many residents in the neighborhood, and the women here clearly have them in spades.

Photography by Scott Beseler
Emily Buddendeck, Nvision
Chris Salley, Fabricate
Cluxton Alley beans, (photo by Jeremy Mosher)
Chicken Lays an Egg
Picnic and Pantry

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