New Rise Car Park incubator space is ‘complete game-changer’ for this retail outlet
Carrie Rengers, Wichita Eagle3/14/2023
The third of what’s quickly becoming a chain of Garages incubator spaces is, in fact, once again in an actual garage.
Phylicia Thompson is taking her mobile 2 Beatz Boutique into its first storefront at Fidelity Bank’s Rise Car Park on Market between Waterman and English. That’s the bank’s parking garage for employees, and it has 17,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, 8,000 square feet of which is still available for lease.
The Garages incubator program has been “a complete game-changer for me,” Thompson said of having personalized help to take her women’s clothing boutique to the next level.
“The history of entrepreneurship runs deep with Fidelity,” said Melissa Knoeber, the bank’s director of culture and talent.
In 2019, Fidelity was an initial partner in Janelle King’s Garage at Cleveland Corner, which she started in a garage next to her Workroom at First and Cleveland.
“I was kind of firing in a million different directions,” King said of wanting to be engaged with the community. “I quickly was like, I need help.”
NetWork Kansas and the Wichita Foundation via funds from the Knight Foundation also have helped.
Part of King’s inspiration came from wanting the vitality of other retailers around her.
You “kind of feel like you’re a lone soldier out there . . . particularly within our downtown core,” she said.
Also, other potential business owners kept asking her, “How did you get started? What do I need to do?”
The incubator program is designed to be a customized resource, with mentors and financial support, for each tenant.
Several businesses have been through the incubator space by the Workroom, with Grow Giesen Plant Shop being one of the most successful. After completing the program there, Grow then moved to its own space at Rise. It’s no longer part of the incubator program, but new next-door neighbor 2 Beatz is.
The two businesses have a lot of customers in common.
“It makes good business sense,” Knoeber said. “It was kind of really a no-brainer for us.”
A FASHIONISTA IS BORN
Thompson was a young girl growing up in Chicago when she’d watch her mother make clothes for people and then see how those people’s faces would light up upon seeing the outfits.
“My mom was a fashionista,” she said. “That’s kind of how I fell in love with fashion.”
When she moved to Wichita in sixth grade, Thompson said she was a quiet girl but let her clothes speak for her.
“It’s kind of a really cool talking point. You can meet strangers.”
As she later pursued a degree in social work, Thompson started an online boutique and then, in her senior year at Wichita State University in 2017, she started her mobile store.
“Our goal is to have women feel powerful through fashion,” Thompson said.
She called her new storefront, which opens April 1, a business casual women’s clothing boutique that will carry accessories, bags, jewelry and women’s clothing in a variety of sizes, including petite to 3X.
In addition to being size inclusive, Thompson said, “It’s really a range of women we tap into.”
She said she named 2 Beatz for her children.
“It was for my kiddos. They’re my two heartbeats.”
Thompson met Michael Ramsey of Bokeh Development, another Garages partner, and he encouraged her to apply for the program.
Business consultant Jaimie Garnett meets with each applicant, and she echoed Knoeber in saying that choosing Thompson was a no-brainer. Part of the appeal is how engaged she already is with the community.
Thompson, Autumn Black and Danielle Johnson have a group called Bringing it Black that helps expand Black-owned businesses through pop-ups and networking events.
Even before she knew she’d be locating next door, Thompson had a Bringing it Black event at Grow.
“That’s not a paying gig,” Garnett said of Thompson’s work. “That’s from the heart.”
In addition to being a community leader, Garnett said Thompson — as a mother of two who started a business while in school — clearly has the fortitude to succeed.
“She has the willpower and the grit.”
SHOP TILL YOU DROP
Part of Fidelity’s interest in expanding the incubator program to Rise is “to activate this area of the city,” said director of marketing Katie Grover.
“Wichita’s hungry for new and exciting opportunities,” she said.
Building strong retail areas is “only going to pull more people in,” Garnett said.
“It is enhancing downtown’s vibrancy. It’s increasing our tax base revenue for the city and the state, right? It is driving visitor spending. Fifty percent of visitors who come to Wichita, the number one thing they do is go shopping.”
Garnett said part of what the program’s board members look for is a business that’s either a new concept or a new spin on an existing one.
“What is going to help Wichita move forward?”
Another Garages incubator space is opening next week at the Lux, a Bokeh property. Las Adelitas Cafe by Esperanza Coffee Roasters is taking the former coffee shop space at the corner of the building on the northwest corner of First and Market.
Though the space isn’t in a garage, Garnett said the Garages name still works.
“The garage also is where you do your startup.”
She said Las Adelitas and 2 Beatz don’t have set time limits to be in the spaces because the program is all about whatever a business might need.
The incubator space next to the Workroom currently is empty but will have a new tenant soon.
King said the perception of the Garages has changed since it began.
“People were just seeing it as I was subleasing the space,” she said. “Now, I have customers coming in going, so what’s coming in next?”
King said she conceived of multiple incubator spaces from the outset, but it’s taken partners to help make it happen.
“We’re bigger than this one . . . spot.”
This story was originally published on Kansas.com on March 13, 2023, 4:47 AM.