Inspired by the city’s booming food truck scene, a Richmond entrepreneur has put her retail aspirations on wheels.
Lisa Fratkin, 50, last year launched Style Delivered. The business sells handmade accessories out of a customized Mercedes van.
“Food trucks are so popular, so I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t people want to buy from a mobile store?’” said Fratkin, a Richmond native, Rutgers graduate and mother of three.
Fratkin had no retail experience before starting the business but knew she wanted more flexibility than a brick-and-mortar store could offer. Instead of shopping for storefronts, she searched for trucks and settled on a van.
The Mercedes Sprinter cost Fratkin $55,000, she said. Outfitting it with display racks, cabinets and a hardwood floor cost another $20,000, she said. North Carolina-based Ilderton Conversion Company handled the work, she said.
The bulk of Fratkin’s business is comes from house calls and driveway parties. She also visits businesses and has festival appearances scheduled in the fall, she said.
The business sells the work of 11 artists and designers. Most of the accessories are made from reused materials, such as handbags made of soda can tabs, scarves fashioned from old T-shirts and jewelry made out of zippers. For men, there are wallets and belts made from tire inner tubes.
Prices range from $5 to $500, said Fratkin, who opted for accessories instead of apparel to appeal to more people.
“With accessories, it doesn’t matter what size you are or how you’re feeling that day,” she said. “They work for everyone.”
There are challenges to running a retail shop out of a van, Fratkin said. Parking is one of them: Finding a space large enough to park the van where there’s foot traffic can be difficult. Level ground is necessary, too, she said, to keep the inventory from sliding off the shelves.
Signage is also an issue. When the van is not in use, Fratkin parks it in her West End neighborhood. Because her homeowners association forbids excessive signage on vehicles, she settles for a removable window sign.
Fratkin said she doesn’t see a storefront in her future, but she’d like to grow her fleet of vans and possibly expand to other cities.