• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

The Downtown Dachsund: From beach bucket to boutique

Melissa and Tom Reed follow entreprenurial spirit to Dows Street
The Downtown Dachshund co-owner Melissa Reed with Cuddles inside the Ely boutique, which is open Thursday through Sunday each week, and has added Wednesday hours through the holiday season. (photo by Janet Nolte)

ELY– “Why isn’t there a collapsible beach pail?”
Three and a half years ago, Melissa and Tom Reed’s first entrepreneurial project began with that simple question. Upon arriving at Myrtle Beach while on vacation, their son Landon looked around and said, “I want a bucket.” With no buckets to be found at the beach, they had to pack up and go into town to buy one.
When it came time to go home, Landon was very disappointed his new bucket had to be left behind.
“It created so many memories, he wanted to take it with us,” Melissa recalled.
On the way home, Melissa and Tom talked about how convenient it would have been to have a collapsible pail.
“So I sketched it on a little napkin and did some research when we got home,” said Melissa.
That was in the early spring of 2013.
About a year later, the “Packable Pail” was born.
“We hit the market the end of June 2014,” said Melissa. “On July 3, 2014, we were on the Today show, so that really took it off. Last May (2016) we were on Oprah’s must-have summer list. So again, that created a lot of exposure for us and the product.”
During the first couple of years, Melissa and Tom filled orders for the pails out of their garage and basement until sales volume became impractical for a home-based business.
“We were getting purchase orders that needed to be palletized, and we weren’t really set up for that because we didn’t have a loading dock,” Tom said. Rather than get a warehouse and hire employees to manage orders and shipping, they made the decision to outsource the distribution function.
Then Melissa began to pursue her idea of opening a gift shop, something she felt was missing from Ely’s small-town business district.
“I always thought it would be nice and there should be a store, somewhere women and children could shop,” Melissa said. “I waited and waited and nobody ever opened anything. So finally after talking about it for several years, my husband and I decided to go ahead and give it try.”
While developing the Packable Pail, the Reeds connected with other independent entrepreneurs like themselves.
“We went to several large trade shows and we met so many people like us that had an idea and came up with a product,” Melissa said. “And so I started collecting cards and talking to my husband.”
“We really should do that gift shop boutique, now that I know of these products and where we can get our inventory and offer something unique,” Melissa said to Tom.
With their time freed up from receiving and shipping orders for their travel-friendly sand pails, the Reeds took the plunge. When a 1,000 square foot retail space became available in downtown Ely early last spring, Tom set to work on renovations and structural details while Melissa put her efforts into selecting product lines and a marketing plan.
Named for the breed of Cuddles, the Reed family dog, the Downtown Dachshund opened its doors on May 5 at 1655 Dows St.
“I didn’t want to offer products that you can buy at Target or Kohls or Walmart,” Melissa said.
The store carries an eclectic mix of goods, including clothing, jewelry and accessories, housewares and gift items. Many of the small companies represented support the needs and enterprises of people in developing countries.
“We love the pay-it-forward products and companies,” Melissa said. “We stock Lily and Laura bracelets, which are handmade by women in Nepal and provide fair trade wages. The whole program is to keep women out of slavery and abusive situations.”
Other product lines, such as MudLOVE bracelets and pendants, promote sustainability and support the delivery of basic human necessities throughout the world.
“They’re all ceramic bracelets with a different message on them. Each one provides one week of clean water to those in need in the Central Republic of Africa,” Melissa said.
One of the store’s most popular items are “bath bombs.” Inside the aromatherapy spheres, about the size of a tennis ball, a small treasure emerges after the bomb has dissolved into fizz and foam. One dollar from the sale of each “American Soldier” bath bomb, from which a toy soldier emerges, goes to the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Downtown Dachshund also sells items that are locally produced, pay tribute to the environs and showcase the work of local artists. Solon Spartan fans, for example, will find black and orange hats and scarves. An array of clothing and accessories, including hoodies, bells, caps and T-shirts, sport a bicycle motif in reference to the bicycle trail that runs by the shop. Bracelets fashioned from broken guitar strings are made by a local bluegrass musician.
Melissa and Tom are enthusiastic participants in community events, such as Ely’s annual Fall Fest. Having noticed there were lots of Dachshund owners in town, Melissa organized the “Doxie Dash,” a fundraiser held at the festival. Along with other dog breeds, over 32 doxies signed up for the race. Proceeds from participant fees were donated to the Cedar Valley Humane Society.
The Reeds believe Ely is a great place to live and do business.
“We’ve got lots of new things coming to town, with new homes and new businesses,” Tom observed. “I think a good tide raises all ships. I think we’re all kind of in this together. All the business owners down here collectively work together on things.”
Things such as the Winterfest that Ely businesses host on Saturday, Dec. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ely’s downtown businesses will join together to celebrate the holidays with events such as sleigh rides, live reindeer, cookie decorating and exchange at the library, along with in-store specials and prizes. The Downtown Dachshund will have hot cocoa, a free gift with purchase, letters to Santa sponsored by Macy’s and a 12-foot Christmas dachshund for selfies. At 8 p.m., the store co-hosts an ugly sweater party across the street at Odie’s Bar and Grill. See Ely’s First Annual Winterfest page on Facebook for details.