Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Retail Idol

I wouldn’t say I’m a closet “American Idol” fan, but the truth is only my closest circle of family and friends know I rarely miss the reality show once the season launches.

So it stands to reason that I was intrigued when I heard about developer Madison Marquette’s “Retail Star” contest -- a new business award modeled after “American Idol.”

The Washington, D.C.-based company used its Bayfair Center, San Leandro, Calif., as the venue for a unique competition that had entrepreneurs pitching for $250,000 in free rent, start-up capital and build-out allowances toward launching their own business in the Bayfair space.

Starting in May 2009, contestants presented their ideas and business plans to a panel of judges, who over the course of several months narrowed the field from 60 to four. In August, an Oakland, Calif., man, Ben Wanzo, was crowned Retail Star, and his TeachBar concept is preparing to open in Bayfair Center.

TeachBar will host affordable educational seminars in what Wanzo describes as a “learning cafe” environment. The learning cafe will occupy a 1,300-sq.-ft. space at Bayfair Center and provide classes, lecture series and cultural events with topics targeting high school students and adults, taught by coaches and teachers from the community. According to founder Wanzo, TeachBar will offer a relaxed atmosphere where locals can enjoy a selection of quick-serve dishes and drinks while connecting with friends or exchanging ideas with other community members.

Wanzo was awarded $25,000 in start-up funds from Madison Marquette, a complete retail space build-out (valued at more than $200,000) and a year of free retail space inside Bayfair Center.

The retail concept will undergo construction this fall and is scheduled to open in November.

In today’s economy, it takes creative thinking to lease retail space. This is perhaps the most unique approach I’ve seen -- kudos to Madison Marquette for thinking outside the box.

You can view a recap of the contest by clicking on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwpWStiBvhU.

-- Katherine Field

1 comment:

denise lee yohn said...

teachbar seems to have taken a page from the retail health clinics that have been popping up everywhere -- making services accessible where people already are -- i like it!

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