Small Business Spotlight: HomeGrown Decatur
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This story has been updated.
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Decatur, GA – About 15 years ago, a stay-at-home mom was making it work with a side hustle selling crafts at weekend festivals, thinking there needs to be a storefront for small crafters. Lori Ronca took her skills of making pillows and crazy t-shirts and opened HomeGrown Decatur in 2010.
The store, at its inception, collaborated with 35 emerging artists struggling to find a market for their work and has grown to offer the work of more than 100 local creators and producers, the HomeGrown website says.
The idea behind HomeGrown Decatur was to provide a brick and mortar storefront for artists and small producers at an affordable cost to them.
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Artists can reach out to Ronca about selling in her store but she and her employees also go looking for artwork.
“Just like with any retailer, we have to pay really close attention to the balance of goods that we’re offering the consumer. We do a lot of scouting as well. I rely heavily on my employees because I’m a middle-aged white lady, I need my employees who have different eyes to help find things that will appeal to different eyes than mine,” Ronca said.
Walking into the store one can expect to find wall hangings, stickers and buttons, among other products, displaying snarky humor and, often, political commentary. One can also find beautiful handcrafted jewelry and wooden bowls as well as artwork and mugs relating to Decatur and Atlanta.
“Our brand tends to be a blend I would say of street art, topical current event-based, a lot of it is political commentary, snarky, lots of snarky humor,” Ronca said. “Somebody that used to sell with us, her quote was where the irreverent meets the sublime. I love how she described it.”
HomeGrown Decatur focuses on selling the work of small, local artists and producers. They also sell bath and body products, soap, candles and a limited variety of foods made in the South.
“I do think a lot about all the different types of shoppers. For example, a senior citizen looking for a wedding guest is not going to buy a snarky, R. Land, street art-inspired piece of wall art but they will buy a beautiful handcrafted wood bowl made by a local out of Decatur trees. So we definitely try and have our offerings appeal,” Ronca said.
As a Decatur resident, Ronca knew she wanted to open her business in the city and has been very entrenched in the community.
“I’m a big believer in community building, and I wanted to open a store where I could sweep the sidewalk in front and say hi to the mayor as they walked by basically which I did, quite often,” Ronca said.
COVID-19 has had a far-reaching impact on HomeGrown Decatur, not only affecting Ronca and her employees but also the artists who sell with her as the store was shut down for weeks in the spring.
The staff was able to adapt while being closed and the store manager taught herself how to manage the back end of the store’s website through YouTube videos.
The store manager became versed in running the online store more efficiently to add more products online and allow for more online shopping.
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HomeGrown Decatur is offering in-store pickup and free local delivery within 10 miles of the store for purchases of $20 or greater, the website says. Customers can also book a private in-store appointment to shop before the store opens on weekdays.
Ronca and her staff have implemented COVID-19 protocols to keep customers and employees safe.
“Of course masks (are) required. We limit the number of people in the shop because we do have a very small shop,” Ronca said. “We always keep our front door open unless it’s just bitterly cold to keep the airflow going. So we keep the front door open as well to allow for better airflow of fresh air.”
They additionally fog the store regularly with a disinfectant spray and have added two air purifiers to run in the store.
Small businesses have suffered during the pandemic and Ronca encouraged shoppers to buy from local stores more often to help support them and recognize that Amazon is going to survive the pandemic.
“I always say if you need a toilet brush, yeah get on Amazon, but if you need a gift or something for your home just always try and support local first. The fact (is) that every dollar spent at HomeGrown is going right back into our local community,” Ronca said.
“It’s going back into the artists’ pocket, not just the shop, but it’s providing employment for local people and that far-reaching effect of going back into the pockets of the people who are actually producing the goods locally,” she added.
HomeGrown Decatur is located at 412 Church Street and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 8 p.m.
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