top of page
  • Writer's pictureRoss Tuggle

Owning a store Is pretty dope.

I’ve gotten asked a few times about owning a store. I usually throw a very short generic response at people, just because there is so much to say about it. I realized that I started this blog thing and that I haven’t been keeping up with it. So! Here’s another post.

To start talking about owning a store, I guess I should go back to when Tuggle’s Timber began. I was making pieces for family and friends, I did an art fair back where I’m from and I realized then, that I was onto something. I made a few sales that day, but the encouragement I heard, let me know that I should keep making these weird art things.

My friend Heather Vaught owns a coffee shop/gift store in Evansville, Indiana. She invited me to come do a pop-up so I did! I almost sold out of everything I brought with me. It was honestly insane. I then started thinking, “Man, this is pretty cool. I want to do this.”

My wife was making polymer clay earrings at the time and would sell a lot just via social media. We started both thinking; how do we take these hobby’s that are going so well and turn them into more than just side hustles?

We started learning about the process of selling in stores, talking with others, or ATTEMPTING to talk to others. Some retail stores were asking for 50% commission, which is wild to think about. Others were asking for 40%. That’s a lot. If I make a piece of art and sell it for $100 bucks, and only actually get $50 for it, and then subtract the material it cost me to make it, my time, etc. I’d be at about 10/20 bucks. Not going to happen.

We kept talking about opening a store where we could help others who are trying to make a hobby more than that. We finally said okay, let’s just do it. Why not? If it fails, at least we can say that we tried. We knew we wanted it to be in Fountain Square. An Indianapolis neighborhood who didn’t have anything like what we were wanting to do. There were some amazing businesses in Ft. Sq. already that we saw already getting a loyal customer base. I bought books and did as much research as I could for someone who knows nothing about how businesses run.

Finding a vacant space in Ft. Sq. is almost impossible. You basically have to know someone. We got a realtor, which was no help at all. The space I wanted the most was previously a ‘Vintage Vouge’ an upscale goodwill, owned by goodwill. They closed at the beginning of the pandemic. They were being odd about talking about renting it to us. I later found out; they had been in talks with Square Cat Vinyl already - as they were hoping to expand. I was super bummed, but in the end, it ended up working out. That space would have been way too big for us as we were starting out and Square Cat uses the extra space so well.

A week or two later, while we were walking around Ft. Sq. looking at buildings that were vacant, but had no way of contacting who owned the buildings, we stumbled upon the old hardware store. The space next to it had a ‘for rent’ sign in it. The sign was hand drawn. There was a chain length fence up, and it didn’t look very inviting. We decided to give the number on the sign a call, and we looked at the space the next day.

The building was small and old. The landlord was an older man who owned the hardware store. We talked to him for over a hour about the space and what we’d use it for. It told us it was ours if we wanted it. We went for it. We signed a lease, which was an old apartment lease and only for a year. We figured, this is about as low risk as we can get.

We started reaching out to Indiana Makers asking if we could sell their items in our store. We offered a very low commission rate in hopes this would build trust and bet on ourselves. We needed to sell OUR items in order to survive, selling other’s items basically just put the money back in the maker’s pocket.

When we started, we accepted anyone and everyone who wanted to sell in our store. There were a few reasons for this, looking back.

1. We needed to fill the shelves. A store with bare shelves, looks a feels bad.

2. If we sell Joe Schmoes items, Joe Schmoe may tell his 5,000 followers. Of those 5,000 maybe 5-6 will come to the store to support Joe Schmoe. Of those 5-6, maybe one will also buy one of Our items.

3. We wanted to support and help those in Indiana who were hoping to make their hobby more than just a hobby.

4. We didn’t know any better/didn’t know how to say No. Saying No in this biz is something I’m still learning how to do. It’s hard.

After a year in business at the old space we wanted to make some changes. The space had A LOT of negatives. It’s small, there’s carpet that we weren’t allowed to remove. There was old paint on the windows that made it look like the hardware store, that we weren’t allowed to remove for over a year. There was an old hardware sign above the store that we couldn’t add to due to historic issues in the neighborhood. No sign could be added actually. I later found out, the giant sticker we applied to our glass technically shouldn’t have been there due to the historic society, I’m glad I never got hit with a fine for that one. Had no idea. There's A LOT of different things about owning a business that we had no idea about, this was one of them. The space has a weird basement type smell. It gets crazy hot in both the summer and winter. We weren’t allowed to remove the old fence. Basically, there were A LOT of things about the old space that we didn’t like. We started talking to the landlord about buying the building in hopes of renovating. When those talks didn’t get anywhere, we started looking for our next move. We had outgrown the space.

We opened in 2020, and we were now almost done with 2022. I said earlier how it’s near impossible to find landlords in Ft. Sq. Over those two years I was able to make some connections. I had heard through the grape vine that the guys who run Fountain Square Tattoo, were buying a building and planning on moving. I contacted them to confirm and then contacted the landlord who I knew. We talked and he agreed to rent to us. The guys moved out and we got the keys on September 2nd 2022 I believe. I wanted to be open by October. Paying rent for two places is just silly, so this was our goal. There was A LOT that had to be done.

It was a tattoo shop so there were sinks/stations all along the walls. We needed to remove those. We wanted to add a back office, a thing that the smaller space didn’t provide. We wanted to paint and make the space feel fresh. We got to work, and got to work quick. We decided to hire a painter for the painting. Hiring people to do things for me is pretty hard. When it's something I know I can do, it just doesn’t make sense to me to hire it out. We decided to hire out the painting mainly due to being on such a time crunch. I asked my neighbor who recently used a painter for his contact info. I met with him and he was super nice. I explaining our time crunch and he assured me he understood and could have it done by a specific date I wanted it done by. This was due to needing to move everything from the old space to the new space and putting it out for display in only a week. Our last week of September we decided to be closed in order to get the new space ready.

Well. That went terribly. They did a real bad job. They also opened some boxes we had there to use cardboard. They used our paper we had there for other jobs. They were literally the worst. I eventually fired them. The guy who was doing our back office hired out a drywaller. When the drywaller was here, I asked if he knew any good painters. He got a guy there that day and it was finished the next day. I forget his name, but I should have kissed him on the mouth.

The new store got ready and we opened by our goal date. We were officially out of the old space. And opened at the new space. We were hoping that the better location, an actual sign, and the fact that we were known in the neighborhood would increase our numbers to help offset the higher price in rent and added utility costs. So far, we were right. Things have been going great at the new space.

In the new space, it feels as if we are getting better at actually running a store.

1. We have figured out what works and what doesn’t.

2. How to tell people, “Your stuff just isn’t ready to sell in our store” in a nice way.

3. What items sells well and what doesn’t, and how to move items that aren’t selling.

4. How to be MORE than just a place that exchanges goods for money. How to be apart of a community and provide shoppers an area that isn’t just a transaction-based area or relationship.

5. How to be apart of the community in a more intentional way, and not just because we hope to get something in return out of it.

6. How to work with other businesses – even if we aren’t working with them. – This one provides a complete separate blog post.

It’s been a wild ride. I think in the next 3 years (the length of our lease) we will be able to see if this is a business we can continue and pass on to our kids if they want it, or if it’s a business that WORKS, but ultimately just doesn’t provide enough financially.

If you’re thinking about opening a brick-and-mortar spot, Here’s some thoughts/advice/tips/whatever’s.

1. Do your research about the location. We went and walked around the neighborhood we were interested through the eyes of business owners. We had walked through Fountain Square countless times, but never through that lens. Look for what a customer would want. What does the neighborhood have/doesn’t have? Is it walkable? Is the location a “destination location” – would someone literally have to go to you, or could they stumble upon you. Which one of those are important to your business?

2. What are your total expenses? This one may be an obvious one, but there are A LOT of added expenses you have to think about when you quit your 9-5. The cost of… Private insurance, lease, renters insurance, internet (business internet is more expensive than residential), electricity, phone (yeah… a landline is kind of necessary in a weird way.), marketing costs, bags, tissue paper, your POS, QuickBooks or another accounting software, an accountant come tax time at the very least, a website, etc. There are a lot that you don’t think of really. I added up our total expenses and figured – okay… We need to bring in $x each day on average to make what we make at our previous full-time jobs.

3. Do you have a support you can ask questions to? Man. I really need to send Heather (my friend who owns a coffee shop in Evansville) a thank you. I really tried hard not to bother her too often, but she was always willing to answer my questions. Where do you get your bags? How do you handle xyz? Payroll costs?! I would have been lost without the help she provided.

4. Who’s doing what? When we opened, Brooke was super pregnant. She will be annoyed when she reads this that I don’t remember the week count, but numbers and dates are things I struggle with. When our baby came a month later, it was all on me. I did basically everything for the store. I was exhausted and I wasn’t having fun at it. We talked about it and changed rolls. I now view the store as “Brooke is in charge and I just work here.” I still handle a lot of the behind the scene things like payroll, tax, inventory, and a lot of other things – but Brooke does the majority of the work at the store now. I think it’s thriving because of this. We both know our roles and support each other in those roles.

5. Does the neighborhood NEED/WANT you? When we opened – there wasn’t another option to get a greeting card close by. Rooftop Fruit was in Fountain Square technically, but on the opposite side of where we were located. We sell very different things, so it didn’t feel as if we would be taking any of her business. We actually attempted to send as many people to her as we could. She later moved down on Virginia Ave in a MUCH better spot, BUT it still feels okay! (I think it does for her too, but I’m not sure.) If she was on Virginia when we opened, we may have hesitated with opening in Fountain Square, but I’m not sure. We are a store that focuses on Indiana Made gifts and goods, where Rooftop Fruit focuses on women owned ethically sourced items. It works!

6. Are you ready to never stop thinking about work? I worked for DCS – The Department of Child Services. I somehow was able to stop thinking about work sometimes after I was done with work. With owning a store, It’s ALWAYS on my mind. Theres always things to do. There are always improvements that you can make. You can always find ways to spend more money here or there in hopes that it improves your shopper’s experience.

Anyways. Those are my thoughts on owning a store. It’s pretty dope. It’s fun. I’m physically at the store “working” about 2 days a week. We have employees and an amazing manager in Chelsea who I hope one day is comfortable telling me, “Ross – we should do XYZ instead of what you think.” We are growing and have big things planned. I’m excited to see if this is something that we will continue to grow and maybe one day have a second or third location.

I really wanted to finish this blog post so I could write the next one – basically just me complaining about how I hate social media, (but I also love it.)

Thanks for reading, nerds.


53 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page