Six months of hands-on renovations to an old furniture company building and a lifetime of passion for revitalizing shuttered buildings in her hometown of Thomasville will culminate on May 29 when Blythe Leonard opens her second business, BL Maker’s Market.
Hundreds of people have been following Leonard’s journey on social media to transform the old Lambeth Furniture Co building at 12 E. Guilford St. into a new company showcasing products made in the USA. The 28-year-old entrepreneur posted hundreds of photos of the building’s transformation as she, her family and friends worked alongside a team of professional contractors.
Supporting American craftsmanship is the one thing in Leonard’s life that equals his list of passions like his mission to fill empty buildings in his hometown. That’s why the 100 artisans and commercial products that will be sold on BL Maker’s Market are all made in America. Additionally, many items are made in North Carolina.
“In my short life, I’ve seen what you can do for old buildings and how it helps the community,” Leonard said.
Leonard began his entrepreneurial career a week after graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2015 when she opened Blythe Leonard LLC, a business specializing in artisanal leather goods, in the former textile manufacturing building. from his great-grandfather on Davidson Street in Thomasville. This business will remain in its building, but there will be pop-up boutique events with its handmade leather handbags, wallets and more on occasion at BL Maker’s Market.
The spotlight of the BL Maker’s Market will be on the other 100 Made in America companies. Leonard is keeping the names and products of the artisans a secret until the grand opening on May 29, but he said there will be products in all categories for men, women, children, babies and pets. There will be pottery, household items, jewelry, food and more. Some artisans are flying out for the grand opening, which will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. A ribbon cutting will take place shortly after 1 p.m. when the public has their first glimpse inside the finished store.
A creative artist at heart, Leonard was also creative when it came to financing the renovation of the 1898 building. She pre-sold BL Maker’s Market clothing on the company. Facebook and Instagram pages, held auctions of his leather goods and the products of other local businesses that offered him items to help him in his cause. In addition, she hosted several Facebook Live shows selling not only her leather goods but also the craftsmen’s products that will be sold in the store.
One of Michigan’s Made in America business owners went to her own downtown area and spent about $ 250 buying local produce from small businesses to send to Leonard for use in auctions and Facebook Live broadcasts. She was able to increase 40% of the renovation costs through fundraising.
“She has supported her community to support this community,” she said. “So many times it’s easy to order something online and have it shipped to you. We need to support the businesses in our cities. We need to support the local businesses.”
When there were times when it seemed like there wouldn’t be enough money to complete the renovation, Leonard said she and her team would find coins stuck between floors, in the walls that they tore up and in other strange places like traffic jams. She saw those copper surprises as a message to hang in there.
“In the renovation we could sweep a room 10 times and no matter what, we would find another penny,” she said. “We hid five cents in the building. They are part of the structure at all times. There are four in the floor and one in a counter.”
Will this be Leonard’s last project to fill empty buildings in Thomasville? Of course not, she said.
“I am so tired that these buildings are empty,” she said. “As long as I’m here and my businesses continue to grow, I’ll do what I think is best for the community. It’s not over yet.”
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– Jill Doss-Raines is The Dispatch’s senior reporter on topics and personality profiles. Contact me at [email protected] and subscribe to the-dispatch.com.