Oranges, alligators, sunshine, beaches — all these Florida icons and more are celebrated at the Florida Local market.
Chelsea Preston and Alonda McCarty opened their shop selling Florida artisan-made goods, including art, decor, T-shirts and books, in a quaint building on Julia Street in New Smyrna Beach in June 2019.
“We saw that there wasn’t really even a place to go shop to try to find a truly local product. We were like, ‘Hey, this is something we would really like to see in New Smyrna,’” Preston said. “We wanted to have somewhere that visitors and locals can say, ‘Hey, I got this genuine Florida local product from the Florida Local.’”
The women grew their market out of a passion for supporting small businesses and artisans, especially those in their Southeast Volusia town. But when the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic set in, making it difficult to operate with the overhead costs of a brick and mortar shop, it provided a golden opportunity for Preston and McCarty to achieve their long-term goal.
The two have permanently closed their downtown brick and mortar location and hope to be traveling around Florida by November, running a pop-up shop and online market out of their vintage Avion trailer.
“Our goal with Florida Local was always to be a state brand. So we wanted to always build it out to be more than what New Smyrna was,” McCarty said. “We love just traveling across the state into those old Florida towns, meeting new artisans and farmers and small business owners, and telling their story.”
The duo decided to “pivot the business into a new model” early on in the pandemic, McCarty said, realizing the uncertainty of how long the pandemic’s impact would linger.
“There’s so much overhead of having a brick and mortar, especially in a very touristy location like New Smyrna Beach. Rent is higher, your utilities are higher,” Preston said. “We said, ‘Alright, let’s take this opportunity, let’s not risk everything for the next six months, the uncertainty, and let’s just do what we love doing. Traveling and exploring and meeting these makers that we’ve been selling in the shop for a year, and highlighting them.”
After mechanical repairs are complete on their 1969 Avion, Preston and McCarty will visit cities and small towns around Florida, living out of their trailer and setting up pop-up shops in coffee shops and small businesses.
“We’ll be parked there for probably a couple days, and then while we’re there, in that destination, we’ll go interview different farmers and makers in that specific area,” Preston said. “The partnership with that will be very intentional,” McCarty said. “For example, we have a really good partnership with Trilogy Coffee out in DeLand, people like that, that we really believe in the ethos of what their brand is, but also that they’re truly representing what Florida is.”
Online sales will likely support much of the business as well, they said.
“We saw a pretty big calling to our online sales during the pandemic, so that was a big reason we’re like, okay, maybe this is something viable, you know, online and mobile,” Preston said.
Florida Local even carries News-Journal columnist Mark Lane’s book, “Roaring Reptiles, Bountiful Citrus, and Neon Pies: An Unofficial Guide to Florida’s Official Symbols.”
Preston’s illustrations of local landmarks, including the Flagler Avenue beach access ramp, Old Fort Park, Smyrna Dunes Park and Blue Springs, have become well known locally. People pose for pictures in front of a mural of Flagler Avenue Preston painted onto the Florida Local building. Stickers and postcards with the illustrations are sold in the Florida Local and other shops around New Smyrna Beach.
[Photogenic places: New Smyrna Beach a natural beauty]
Before Preston and McCarty hit the road, they’ll be giving away two spots on a charter fishing trip.
“One thing we would like to mention is we’re getting ready to team up for a very large giveaway in the next month,” Alondsa said. “We partnered with a bunch of really good partners across the state, Toadfish Outfitters and how to Do Florida, so that’s going to be a big launch for us, just to get to come out and hang out with us for a day.”
While the women said they’ll miss New Smyrna, they’re looking forward to the adventures of traveling.
“I think we’re just really excited to see what’s out there,” Preston said.
“We never got to go to college together, so this is going to be like our own little dorm. We’re ready for all kinds of fun. And we love being able to go out to a new place. That’s like a breath of fresh air for us,” McCarty said. “Maybe it’s a place you’ve never been before, maybe somewhere small like Palatka, or Homosassa, or somewhere like that that’s a very small, off the beaten path location, that we can drive traffic to those businesses, we can tell their story.”
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: NSB’s Florida Local market goes mobile, soon to travel the state in vintage trailer