The Transylvania Times -

Gra•vy Breaking Records As Revenue Source

 

May 21, 2018

Dave McClellan and wife Shirley Hallblade, of Connestee Falls, browse one of the home décor spaces in Gra•vy, the Brevard shop that gives all its profits to the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club.

It's not a restaurant, despite once getting a job application in the mail from a chef. Nevertheless, Gra•vy, a shop in downtown Brevard with a funny dot in the middle of its name, is something of a tasty treat to the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club, for which it's providing a growing source of financial support.

The variety shop is at 17 West Main St., just steps from the busy Broad Street intersection. It was established by club supporters a dozen years ago as a means of generating funds to support the organization's many programs and to raise awareness of its good works.

Gra•vy's sales and popularity have grown over the years. In 2017 it yielded more than $15,000 for the club and it has already provided that much this year after only four months.

"With an operating budget of over $980,000," said club Executive Director Candice Walsh, "the club is very thankful for Gra•vy raising awareness of our mission and serving as a reliable and consistent source of income."

Gra•vy got its unusual name because of dictionary definitions of the word: A Webster's College edition, for instance, has one definition as, "any extra benefit or value beyond that expected." Gra•vy the shop, uses the distinctive dot between the two syllables on its signs because that's the way a dictionary shows the division of syllables.

A sign behind the counter has the dot and uses a slightly expanded definition: "Something additional or unexpected that is pleasing or valuable."

"That's us!" said Beth Womble, one of the four women who founded Gra•vy and who still volunteers in the shop.

'Knicks And Knacks'

Gra•vy's business model is unusual but pleasing to shoppers. The store's 2,500 square feet are divided into sectioned-off areas crammed with a wide variety of tastefully displayed knicks and knacks, crafts and clothing, pots and paintings, jams and jewelry.

It is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

"People from out of town say this is the first place they come when they arrive and the last before they leave," said Sherry Sapp, the store manager.

One woman wrote on the Yelp.com review website that Gra•vy stood out as "a very eclectic shop" she wouldn't miss on a return trip.

"Out of all the super neat shops in downtown Brevard, this one has to be my favorite," she wrote.

There are currently 42 vendors renting spaces in Gra•vy, and that rent is a major source of the shop's income. Rates range from $45 a month for a small wall space to $155 for a partitioned area.

Also, Gra•vy gets a percentage of each sale, from a low of 15, to a high of 40 percent in spaces that are rent-free. There are variations of those arrangements, and Gra•vy itself has a few spaces where it sells its own merchandise, from soaps to socks, plus drinks and snacks.

A Business "Marriage"

It's a business marriage made in commercial heaven. The vendors, mostly local crafts people and entrepreneurs, come in only to replenish and rearrange stock so they can sell without spending time waiting on customers. Gra•vy's two staffers and volunteers man the counter, collect the money and record the sales.

Those sales are brisk, mostly because of the extensive variety and the quality of the merchandise.

"You don't need to go to a mall," said Nicole Mihalas, the only other paid staffer. "We have everything...there's a great variety that reflects the variety of talents and tastes."

The quality, variety and artistic display of items are carefully controlled, starting with the application process for prospective vendors. A shop steering committee approves each vendor and keeps watch with the staff over maintaining a broad appeal. There can't be too much jewelry, or wood items, or paintings, or clothing, or any other type of merchandise, said Sapp.

After the steering committee approves a new vendor, he or she must wait for an open space in the shop. Right now, there's a long line.

"We stay filled up almost all the time," said Sapp. "We rent every space but the floor we walk on, and if we could figure out a way, we'd do that, too!"

Volunteer Womble, who ran the Womble Inn bed-and-breakfast farther west on Main Street for 27 years, said the idea for Gra•vy was born one day in May of 2006, when she and three friends involved in the Boys & Girls Club were talking about ways to raise money. The others: the club's namesake, the late Cindy Platt, a principal founder; Roberta Hallinen, who still serves on the club's Board of Directors, and Anna Robinson, still a shop volunteer and the one who came up with the name Gra•vy.

"We wanted to not only establish a revenue source," said Womble, "but we also wanted to raise awareness of the club."

They were successful in both goals, said staffer Mihalas.

"A lot of the reason for our success is that this community supports the Boys & Girls Club. It's a community effort," said Mihalas.

 
 

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