Kristen Hicks is not the gambling type.
“Not at all. I don’t play cards, I don’t use slot machines,” she said. “In my professional life, I take calculated risks more willingly.”
Yet for someone who doesn’t gamble, she has made some bold moves on Main Street in the town of Louisa, and so far, those moves are paying off.
First, she established Nourish Louisa, a retail space for local farmers, growers, vineyards and crafters. She works hand-in-hand with these local vendors to help them get their goods out to more people without the hassle of shipping or marketing.
Her trendsetting new business has quickly become one of Main Street’s most popular destinations, having grown from 10 to 15 vendors when she opened to more than 70, and reaching yearly sales in the thousands in 2018, their first full year of being open.
Bringing a new business to Main Street, as many local business owners have found out, can be a financially unforgiving endeavor. But Hicks managed to bring something new to downtown Louisa and make it work.
“I think the challenge, for many of us on Main Street, is trying to find a way to get the people who come to Main Street for one thing to stay on Main Street for some of their other purchases,” she said.
Now, as the novelty is wearing off and Nourish Louisa’s sales have begun to stabilize, Hicks said she started looking at other ways to grow, but there was a huge logistical hurdle in their way.
“Initially, when we opened Nourish Louisa, we only had one small bathroom,” she said. “That put our maximum occupancy at 12, including employees and myself. So, I knew that if we continued to host classes and game nights and things of that nature, that having one bathroom was going to really restrict our growth.”
With the closure of Fabric Hut and Gift Gallery next door at the end of 2018, Hicks said she saw an opportunity.
“I talked to my landlord about the possibility of expanding into the space,” she said. “We started thinking about what kind of business would complement what we have now.”
She saw how Obrigado and Floozies are able to combine resources and facilities to complement each other in a way that brings a different demographic of customers through the door.Ultimately, Hicks said, that is what every business owner wants to do; reach as many people as possible.
“Nourish Louisa had a certain aesthetic that draws people who are looking for a certain experience,” she said. “We have the window displays with antiques, and the decor and signage all are alluding to the fact that a lot of our inventory is in the mid-to-high end, and not the least expensive option out there. And that’s okay.”
A soft opening for Hicks’ newest venture, Dapper Cat Coffee, was held in June during the Louisa Street Festival, even before much of their equipment had arrived.
“Orange County Roasters came in and filled up our carafes and we had people come in to see the design and decor during the street festival,” Hick said.
Since they opened officially on July 5 next door to Nourish Louisa, Hicks said it’s been interesting to see the different things that bring people through the door that otherwise may have not.
“We have our regulars who come in and want to grab a coffee while they look at the new inventory,” she said. “We have people who maybe only came to Fabric Hut once a year, and now they’re seeing that there’s been a change. It’s been steady since we opened.”
Dapper Cat offers coffee, espresso, iced coffee, and the standard coffee-based drinks you’d find at most other coffee shops. They offer light foods and desserts, such as pastries, cakes and sandwiches, but Hicks said she is happy to leave the full breakfasts and more substantial meals for the other restaurants on Main Street.
“I think it works nicely,” Hicks said of the dynamic between her and neighboring shops and businesses.
As for the future, Hicks said now that she has the logistics covered, she is excited to see some of the new events, classes and entertainment that will now be within reach.
Nourish Louisa and Dapper Cat Coffee can be found at 205 and 203, W. Main St., Louisa, respectively. Visit their Facebook page for additional information.