Yvonne LeFave thinks about small business in big ways. Thanks to her, vendors with products have a whole new way to get in front of buyers. Lansing Eastside Gateway, or the “Gateway” for short, is also called LEG because LeFave likes puns and said the concept gives entrepreneurs a “leg up.” She has lived in Lansing since 1988, most of that time on the east side and is proud to call that part of Lansing home.
The Gateway isn’t LeFave’s first out-of-the-box Lansing business venture. She started a delivery service a few years back called Go Green Trikes that uses heavy-duty electric-assist tricycles. When Go Green Trikes outgrew its original commercial garage space, LeFave started searching out alternatives.
“I’d been looking for two years, and when this space came on the market, I knew it was the one even though it was much larger than I needed,” LeFave said. “When I began to think of ways to use the extra space, I decided the best use would be to share it with others. The rest came in a flash of insight, complete with a name. I closed on the space in August, renovated for about six weeks, and the Gateway officially opened on Oct. 16, 2018. We now have 25 vendors with others coming almost daily.”
LeFave said Lansing Eastside Gateway is unique. “If any one of my vendors were to try and create a retail space on their own, they’d have some huge financial hurdles to overcome: cost for their space, enough inventory to fill a typical retail area, staffing, office supplies, point-of-sale equipment and more. That can all be daunting and stops most from ever starting. Through the Gateway, startup costs are greatly reduced. Renting a shelf is only $30 a month, and stocking one shelf versus a whole storefront is much more manageable.”
In addition to renting a shelf, options include renting a wall grid section or a section of floor space. To date, vendors have sold a variety of products this way, including books, original art, handcrafted soap, fused glass, ceramics, leather goods and local honey.
The space is run cooperatively with vendors asked to help staff the storefront for five hours a month or pay an additional $50 to help cover staffing costs. There is a common sales desk and a store manager. Vendors receive daily sales reports so they know when to bring in more stock. There are also two 50-foot semis and a 20-foot shipping container on-site, available for rent as inventory space. Unlike many retail “incubators,” this one is open to virtually anyone expressing interest.
“If you could pursue your dream of owning a retail presence for just a dollar a day while keeping your day job or being able to support your dream in other ways, wouldn’t you?” asked LeFave. “Another thing I hear from vendors is that the creative process can be isolating and lonely work. Coming here, meeting other vendors with shared interests and/or interacting with them in our closed vendor Facebook group has helped quell some of those feelings and has brought a new level of excitement to their endeavors.”
Lansing Eastside Gateway is at 615 E. Kalamazoo St. Hours are 2-7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Like them on Facebook or email them at email@example.com.