August 22, 2023 | Main Spotlight: Main Spotlight: 7 Unique Main Street Business Concepts | By: Marta Olmos, Communications Coordinator at Main Street America |
The BYTE Shop in Boston, Mass. Photo courtesy of JP Centre/South Main Streets.
While we often associate Main Streets with quintessential shops and stores—such as indie bookstores and cute cafes—many districts are also home to a wide variety of unique, innovative, and fun small business concepts. We asked our members to share some of the coolest businesses located in their Main Street districts. Which of these 7 businesses would you visit?
Monsters on Main
The cuddliest monsters can be found at Monsters on Main in Denison, Texas, but they’re more than just couches and cushions. For 25 years, Nitia Musico owned and operated Rugs and Stuff, a manufacturer of high-end upholstered goods. In 2019, she expanded her business to Monsters on Main, the only business in the country that repurposes upholstery fabric scraps into little monster pillows. “The leftover piece has a new life as an adorable monster that brings smiles to the faces of young – and the young at heart – alike,” says her website.
Monsters on Main’s downtown location is a perfect example of Main Street success. “The completely remodeled historic building is a true mixed-use Main Street development with commercial space on the first floor and a spectacular loft on the second with roof deck,” said Jamie Crawley at Texas Main Street. We love a multi-use business in a multi-use space!
The BTYE Shop
Waiting for electronics repairs is a pain—but what if your repair shop was also a museum? At The BYTE Shop, located in JP Centre/South Main Streets in Boston, Massachusetts, you can get your computer repaired by while you peruse a unique collection of vintage and retro electronics, including the largest collection of historic home computers in New England.
“Visitors are welcome to turn on the computers and play with them,” said Ginger Brown, Executive Director at JP Centre/South. The collection includes vintage games, old floppy disks, and big old computers from the 1960s. There’s nothing like the nostalgia of that old dial-up tone to make you appreciate your current tech.
The first cat café in Iowa? Sounds like purrfection! Coffee Cats is located in Historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines, Iowa. Customers can sip locally sourced coffee while they play with adoptable cats from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL). Mary Jankowski created the business in partnership with the ARL, which helped her tour business locations and set up the best cat-friendly space.
“I think the setting in and of itself really helps a lot because people can spend some time in there and watch a cat’s personality and how they get along with the other cats and it just gives a little bit more of an opportunity to check things out,” said Jankowski in the Des Moines Register. The program has been a huge success. “Over 1000 animals have been adopted out since Coffee Cats opened three years ago,” said Steve Frevert of Historic Valley Junction.
Jump into some summer fun at The Block, a trampoline park in Downtown North Wilkesboro, North Carolina! The space is packed with over 8,000 square feet of trampolines, a roller rink, a laser tag arena, a battle beam pit, a ninja warrior course, and more. The Block is very popular with families and young people, especially teenagers. “A local organization, Wilkes Youth Life Development (WYLD), hosted a prom after party that had a huge turnout,” said Taylor Gann at Downtown North Wilkesboro Partnership.
The owners of The Block recently expanded their business with the purchase of a nearby vacant restaurant and parking lot. “In six short months, they revamped the interior and converted their private parking lot into an outdoor space with seating, turf, a playground, and more,” said Kenner. Community investments like this are at the heart of the Main Street Movement.
If you are looking for a culturally rich coffee experience, head to Zabuni Coffee in Grand Island, Nebraska. This coffee auction house markets and sells Kenyan coffee directly from the producers. Alongside coffee sales, they provide education about coffee origins, farmers, and communities in Kenya. The company was founded by Laban Njunguna, who grew up in Nairobi but settled in Nebraska with his wife. “We wanted to be that bridge that somehow adds value to farmers in Kenya and provides something special to the customers here,” said Njuguna to the Flatwater Free Press.
“Zabuni Coffee is hands down the most unique business in one of our Main Street districts,” said Elizabeth Chase at Nebraska Main Street Network. The retail shop and tasting room in Grand Island was a way for Njuguna to give back to his adopted community. “I love it here. For me, Nebraska values, Nebraska Nice, it’s a real thing…Nebraska adopted me,” said Njuguna.
Arc Light Media
Looking for the next true crime podcast the haunt your nightmares? According to CrimeCon UK, the best indie podcasts are coming out of Arc Light Media, a podcast production company based in Downtown Wabash, Indiana. The studio is owned by Shane Waters, a Downtown Wabash, Inc., board member.
Arc Light Media hosts three podcasts: Foul Play, which dives into a crime case each season; Hometown History, which researches the history of various towns; and It’s Frightful, a podcast about creepy paranormal experiences. “They produced the first-ever true crime podcast in 2014 and are considered pioneers in the industry,” says Andrea Zweibel at Downtown Wabash Inc. If you have a craving for creepy, Arc Light Media is the place to go!
Immerse yourself in a new world at this Victorian Steampunk tea shop in Niles, Michigan! Founded by Laura and Shane Hollister, Apothica Teas sells a range of yummy goods, including tea flights in test tubes, clotted cream and lemon custard, and “take and bake” items. Alongside their usual fare, they offer a wide range of experiences. Looking for a warm beverage late at night? Check out Insomia Café from 10pm to 1am. Want an elevated experience? Book an Afternoon High Tea! Ready to dive into fantasy? Book a seat at an Orc Feast.
“Since opening just prior to the pandemic, they have expanded two times, creating a conservatory in the space next door, and opening a banquet facility on the second floor of the building,” said Lisa Croteau at Niles DDA Main Street. Apothica Teas works with nearly two dozen artisans on a rotating basis to give customers an authentic taste of everything Niles has to offer. “Don't know which one of the nearly 90 teas they carry to choose? Roll the dice and let fate decide for you!” said Croteau.
Do you have a unique small business that your community loves? We want to hear about it! Tag us on social media @NatlMainStreet in any posts that show off the awesome small businesses on your Main Street.
Hestia Creations, a Main Street America Allied Member, is this quarter's Main Spotlight advertiser. For more information about the products and services they provide to Main Street organizations, click here >