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Fairfax City lines up artisans and businesses for new retail incubator store

The winter gift-giving season has come to a close, but a new retail incubator store in Fairfax City will encourage the community to shop local year-round.

Set for a grand opening at 10 a.m. this Saturday (Dec. 30), Wander In will host more than two dozen painters, candle-makers and other artisans in a shared retail space at 3950 University Drive, Suite 211 in Old Town Plaza.

The program aims to give “prime retail space” to small and emerging businesses that are either based in the city or might consider opening a permanent storefront there, promising a relatively low start-up cost and some provided training.

“With Wander In, our goal is to enhance the shopping experience through exciting special events and collaborative business initiatives,” said Tess Rollins, executive director of the Old Town Fairfax Business Association (OTFBA), which developed the idea with the Fairfax City Economic Development (FCED) office. “This resonates with both our cherished residents and valued visitors.”

At 1,974 square feet in size, including classroom, office and storage space, Wander In will accommodate over 30 vendors, including:

  • Paris Love Jewelry offers a diverse selection of handcrafted and designed jewelry encompassing a blend of eclectic vintage and modern styles.
  • White Dove Candle LLC presents a curated selection of premium candles, artistically designed to infuse your space with serenity and sophistication.
  • Mary Bockenek Art features thumbnail-sized landscapes, mini abstracts, and three-dimensional heart art, all crafted with joy to add a vibrant pop of color wherever they find a home.
  • Toute-Petite, translating to ‘attention to detail’ in French, embodies a commitment to meticulously crafted artwork, ensuring each piece is thoughtful. The brand offers a collection of greeting cards and small gifts appropriate for any occasion.

Each vendor is expected to stay at Wander In for terms of three, six, nine or 12 months. According to the FCED, vendors pay a $200 per month, along with a 10% consignment on products sold, and artists get 60% of the consignment fee.

In addition to getting to sell their wares, the vendors will host workshops, participate in community events, and learn marketing and other business skills from the Mason Small Business Development Center, which partnered with FCED, the business association and property owner Kimco Realty on the initiative.

With many of the participating businesses primarily run out of homes or at farmers’ markets, the store will enhance their visibility in the community, while also providing a new shopping option to customers, according to Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read.

“This will offer residents and visitors a fun browsing experience,” Read said, noting that Old Town Plaza is served by a free parking lot. “This is a great resource for those unique items we all look for at festivals and fairs, only now we can find them all year round.”

This weekend’s grand opening event will include refreshments and “limited giveaways” for customers. After that, Wander In will be open on Tuesdays through Sundays.

There will be regular workshops, classes, and events where customers can meet and even learn from the makers of the items that are being sold. One event coming in January will be a weekend pop-up, where vendors can reserve a two-day spot for $150.

“Wander In is more than a retail space; it’s a pioneering collaboration that echoes our vision for
Fairfax City,” FCED Director and CEO Christopher Bruno said. “With its innovative offerings, we anticipate not just a hub for unique, locally crafted gifts, but a redefined shopping experience that speaks to our community values. Wander In represents a significant stride in reshaping the entrepreneurial and community engagement landscape of Northern Virginia.”

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