Mobile retail businesses set up for Wide Open Bluegrass, fight to maintain foot traffic

As a variety of businesses set up tents and tables along Fayetteville Street this weekend, a few stood out for a clear reason.

"This is how we started our business, as a mobile retail unit," said Megan Wagner, owner of The Go Girl Shoppe in Raleigh.

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Wagner said she first began it as a hobby, before transitioning full-time in 2012. She credited her beginnings with a mobile-location only as important to her sustainability.

"Retail in general has really changed over the years. In the world of Amazon, we're really trying to bring that hometown feel back to America, back to Raleigh. And this was really the most cost-effective way we could start our retail off, and start our name and our brand," said Wagner.

While they've since added a flagship location at Raleigh Flea Market, Wagner said she still travels two to three times a month throughout the state for pop-up events.

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In Raleigh, those specially-designated events are the only time her mobile retail business is allowed to operate, since the city does not have an ordinance allowing them to park-and-sell outside those times.

"Right now, the challenge is how do we help these small start-ups doing this mobile retail, having a mobile concession stand, to sell the wares. How do we allow them to be able to do that," explained Jennifer Martin, the Executive Director of Shop Local Raleigh.

Martin is hopeful the city will relax restrictions on these types of businesses moving forward.

"We've also talked to several brick-and-mortars that have said they would like to have these other vehicles there because it draws more attention, it draws more foot traffic. It helps everyone in the end," Martin said, adding they've spoken with several city council members about the topic who have been receptive to holding future discussions.

While Wagner used her success in mobile retail to open a more traditional location, Martin said some brick-and-mortars have expressed interest in adding a mobile element to their business.

Martin noted that the success of the food truck pilot program in Raleigh could be a possible model retail businesses could follow.
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