By Lee Noles
MONROE – Not just a shop, but a destination isn’t some catchy phrase Beth Tourtellot displays on her business card. it’s a philosophy she strictly follows since opening Peddler’s Paradise almost two years ago.
On any given day the eclectic store of antiques, knickknacks and home décor becomes a bustling place where customers not only shop, but can grab a chair, have a drink and spend time sharing a laugh.
“People just love coming here,” Tourtellot said. “I have a lot of repeat business. And they don’t just come in here to shop. They come here to hangout and to visit.”
The sense of community is something Tourtellot aimed for when she developed the idea of a place where people rent space to sell an assortment of handmade crafts. But the dream would have stayed just that if it wasn’t for a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, which made Tourtellot seize the opportunity.
So, while still in remission, Tourtellot started to put her more than 20 years of experience working in marketing and retail to use. She started by getting advice from a variety of business owners who ran a store like the one she wanted to open. They discussed what to charge vendors and how to track sales. Tourtellot proceeded to search social media for artists who could make the type of creations she wanted to offer. Within two weeks, she had more than 150 people to interview as possible vendors.
The business venture wasn’t without bumps. Tourtellot at one point had to switch her whole concept when she realized early on the idea of promoting artists just wasn’t selling. She began to find her niche by attracting more homemade craftwork for people who could use it for everyday life. Another lesson she learned looking back was the need to talk with city officials from Monroe to help in getting grants that aided in paying rent and restoring the façade on the front of the store.
“I wish I would have checked that out earlier,” Tourtellot said. “There are so many opportunities out there.”
One part of running a business Tourtellot knew well was her willingness to adapt to the ever-changing likes and needs of her customers. She began offering classes that range from ornament decorations to making apple pies within the first few months of opening. Tourtellot also began selling more food from local and state vendors. She even drew from her own life by creating a section in the store dedicated to CBD oils and other holistic medicines she started using to curb the pain from the surgeries and months of chemotherapy she endured. She also took the upstairs she initially used for classes at the store and redesigned it for birthday parties and other celebrations.
Peddler’s Paradise is also one of the few businesses in the downtown area which stays open seven days a week.
“It’s knowing what (the customer) wants,” Tourtellot said. “It’s not always what you want. If you always sell what you want, your not going to be doing it very long.”
The business isn’t just about making money for Tourtellot. It’s also about giving back to the community. She recently had two fundraisers. One was for a friend whose son was injured in a motorcycle accident. The other was a photo shoot with people’s pets and Santa Claus. The money Tourtellot raised was given back to Pawsitive Impact, a dog rescue.
The basement of the store is also dedicated to storing food she gives to local food banks.
“God put us here to help others,” Tourtellot said. “When I got this space, I had enough to help others and we have to help each other.”
Tourtellot’s boundless energy isn’t just limited to her store. She founded the Monroe Merchant Association in 2018 to bring local business owners together and develop ideas to entice shoppers to downtown. The association roughly has around 50 members. She also worked with other businesses to develop a pop-up market that brought vendors from all around the state. Tourtellot created a monthly Sip-And-Shop in which people come to downtown to not only enjoy stores but also local restaurants.
“I have fallen in love with downtown,” Tourtellot said. “It’s very pretty, the historic buildings are amazing and there is free parking.”
Tourtellot spends more time at the store than she does at home. Even when she does get away from the business, she is still online looking for new vendors or trying to develop ideas to bring in customers.
“It’s not work to me. It’s my passion,” she said. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”
Want to learn more?
Peddler’s Paradise is located at 105 W. Franklin St., Monroe. Call 980-279-6606 or visit www.peddlersparadisemonroe.com for details.