Co-Op Spirit Unites South Tampa Shops

What happens when 13 shopkeepers are anxious to ignore any talk of a recession? They band together to form a shopping co-op and encourage the community to shop local. Led by Jennifer Dutkowsky, owner of Why Not Boutique, an eco-friendly boutique, Shop Local South Tampa began informally with the owners of three shops: Why Not Boutique, Indigo Bee and Sweet Emotion Boutique.

The three boutique owners met to share ideas and discuss business challenges. "There was nothing in South Tampa that focused on the small retail businesses. We started meeting to discuss the problems we face as small business owners," says Dutkowsky. "We got together and said, 'I'm struggling, you're struggling. How can we help each other?'"

Finding value in their small coffee gatherings, Dutkowsky began to research other cities with "shop local" mentalities and was inspired by Shop Local Montclair, based in New Jersey. 

"Shop Local South Tampa consists of local, independently owned businesses. No franchises or chains," says Dutkowsky. "Our goal is to provide support for small, independent businesses through cooperative advertising, marketing and events. By shopping locally, people support their local community."

While the group launched at an economically challenging time, it was a seasonally good time (during the holidays), and Dutkowsky expects that the collaborative effort will lead to more opportunities for all, including freeing up resources to allow an increase in staff and possible employment opportunities.

At this time, the business owners who make up SLST are all women. Finding strength in numbers, the co-op consists of boutiques that sell designer garments, children's clothes and toys, home decor and unique finds for animal lovers.

"I'm really excited about Shop Local South Tampa. We found we all craved a group like this and decided to just start one ourselves. I think it's great to be a part of a small business community and support local businesses," says Monica Stewart of Sweet Emotion Boutique.

Shop Local South Tampa meets the first Tuesday of the month at 8:45 a.m. at various member shops, giving members a chance to get to know one another's businesses.

The following boutiques currently participate in Shop Local South Tampa:
Bohemian Vintage
DKM Accessories
Indigo Bee
Kooky Kidz/Gigglebox Couture
La Chic Boutique
Love That!
Silly Dilly Tot Spot
Sparkles Plenty
Sweet Emotion Boutique
Sweet Pea Gallery
Why Not Boutique

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Sources: Jennifer Dutkowsky, Monica Stewart
Signup for Email Alerts