On June 30th, 2011, the “Downtown Market”, in Asheville, NC, home to more than 70 vendors, including Amazing Savings Grocery and Hi~Fi Coffee Bar was scheduled to close. The FDIC, First Bank, and the Bank of Asheville were some of the players calling on the owners to immediately pay off a mortgage on a building that didn’t seem worth what it once was in 2007. The owners simply did not have enough money to pay the debt and desperately hoped that the existing vendors would stay long enough to find a solution, and the date was getting very close. Enter Susie Watson and Lance Hardcastle.
Susie and Lance were both independent vendors selling their own blends of inventory in the building at the time. Not only were they independent vendors, but they were also armed with an entrepreneurial spirit to “step up” and save the building that housed them, and all of the other vendor tenants from impending foreclosure. They loved the 42,000 sqft building, that is referred to as “a village within a village”, and knew that the local community needed this sort of marketplace that sold everything from groceries to arts and crafts, at “amazing prices”.
When Susie and Lance heard that the building they were in was going be shut down, they sprang into action, opening up dialogue with the bank and successfully reached an agreement to lease the building from the bank and keep it operational, while the bank searched for a new owner. “We asked all of the other vendors to please stay and have faith that we can all make it work”, says Susie.
With Susie and Lance becoming solely responsible for the entire lease on the building, most of the vendors remained and revenues have been increasing every day since. The bank is now better off, because they can now present a thriving business, bustling with activity, to the commercial real estate market, rather than a dark, cold and empty building.
What’s unusual about this sort of situation is twofold. For one, in takes an incredible leap of faith for small business owners to take on a monthly obligation based, so much, upon the success and performance of others, in this case, all of the other vendors, who pay a percentage of each sale to the “house”. Secondly, banks rarely extend lease terms to individuals without measurable revenue expectations and valid collateral. More than likely, this arraignment would have never been possible with a large banking institution, but quite possible with a smaller, local bank, with more flexibility, not hindered by “large bank” policies and red tape.
Other positive factors in this success story are the quality merchandise, unique food choices, and everyday practical things, sold at a price people can afford. Most importantly, it’s the people at this business and the local banking community, working together to find a solution for the good of everyone. Without the help of a confused congress, the business community, as a whole, steps up, finds a solution and fixes the problem with common sense.