In the newest shopping experience on Franklin’s downtown square, people can pick up funky cardigans, colorful clutches and floral joggers.
Customers come to byTavi looking for quality, handmade goods that you can’t buy anywhere else. But for every stylish purchase that’s made, people in Johnson County are helping women escape poverty in Cambodia and earn a sustainable living.
With a new boutique that opened this month, officials hope that their efforts can generate even greater good.
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With the new store, byTavi organizers hope to increase the already impressive growth they’ve experienced during the past two years. The vocational ministry has seen its sales more than double since opening a physical location in Franklin in 2015.
Though the new store is just blocks from the former space, it offers advantages such as greater visibility and the chance to consolidate its operations under one roof.
“Being closer to the courthouse square, there’s a lot more foot traffic. We’re in a retail shopping spot, and the farmers market is just across the street,” said Lindsey Green, the byTavi brand manager. “A lot of the festivals are held right here, so we can just open our doors and kind of take part in what’s already happening here.”
The byTavi project was started by the Center for Global Impact, a nonprofit organization that uses faith to help people escape from poverty. Organizers were particularly focused on helping women escape the conditions that too often led to human trafficking and slavery.
The program offers work training, employment and a living wage to women living in Cambodia. Women who work for byTavi are paid for each piece of clothing or apparel they create. After the sales, 100 percent of the proceeds goes back into the byTavi program, either for wages, supplies, meals for the workers or other support.
Every item made through byTavi includes the name of the seamstress who created it, so people get a more tangible connection to it, Green said.
“Each purchase is supporting something so much bigger than just buying at a store. It’s directly impacting the person who made the item. The purchase is so personal,” she said.
For the first years of its existence, byTavi was housed in the Center for Global Impact offices in the Center Grove area. But as the project grew, with the potential to increase sales, organizers started looking for a new home for it.
They relocated to downtown Franklin, in a small shop on Jefferson Street. Almost immediately, officials saw an impact.
For the fiscal year ending in June 2016, the organization reported sales of $356,690. That was up from $304,459 in 2015 and $244,509 in 2014.
“Before, we were kind of hidden on (State Road 135), and having a retail space in a small community that really supports small businesses allowed us to really thrive,” Green said. “We get a lot of support from the Franklin community as well as people who come to visit, with it being a destination town to shop.”
That growth has necessitated a new home. They found a solution in downtown Franklin.
The new space was renovated by Brandon and Nicole Nicoloff, owners of the Marshmallow Monkey, a home decor and design shop on Franklin’s courthouse square. The couple have been a huge supporter of byTavi and provided the shop that served as its first Franklin boutique, Green said.
“We’re a nonprofit, so without their vision and them doing this work, we would not be able to have a space like this,” Green said.
And just as the Nicoloffs transformed the Marshmallow Monkey, the new byTavi store blends modem design with historic and rustic elements.
Before the storefront housed an auto parts shop, the building had been the livery and stables, where horses were kept while people were in town doing business.
Even as people are approaching the store, they get a sense of its past history. Industrial-style lighting illuminates the stylized lettering on the sign out front. The black and silver color scheme provides a sleek, modern feel.
Inside, dresses, handbags, cardigans and other accessories are arranged on repurposed wood tables and shelving. With a wide-open floor plan, the new store will also better serve the flow of customer traffic, and allow for a better shopping experience, Green said.
Photographs of the seamstresses who make every item in the story are fancifully hung on the wall.
The Nicoloffs have integrated the existing cement floors and exposed brick, refinishing each element while maintaining its characters. The back of the wall has been ship-lapped to add to the rough charm of the space.
“Because it’s a beautiful historic building, it was really just bringing that all back to life,” Green said. “We’re basically taking care of what’s there.”
The new store will allow byTavi to consolidate its warehouse and boutique into one building. Previously, the project stores its finished products in a space in Southport.
“That was about 20 minutes away from our boutique in Franklin, so we really wanted to bring those together,” Green said.
What: A project of the Center for Global Impact, a faith-based organization designed to creatively connect financial and human resources with the less fortunate.
The program teaches impoverished women in Cambodia how to sew handbags, skirts, tops and other accessories. They are employed by the Center for Global Impact, and the women receive fair wages while their products are marketed internationally.
Location: 51 W. Monroe St., Franklin
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday