Ally Cross

Ally Cross stands in front of a few of the custom shirts in her new shop, Ally’s Custom. She does not make the clothing, but she can customize them with designs and words. Photo by Stan Schwartz

Downtown business chalet a stepping stone

BOWLING GREEN—Ally Cross sat behind an antique counter busily working on creating another piece of jewelry for her new shop on S. Court Street just off the square.

She recently opened Ally’s Custom, a shop that specializes in one-of-a-kind jewelry and clothing, as well as other unique items. Before becoming the first business to occupy the chalet that sits behind the Court Annex building, Ally said she had been working out of her house.

The chalet idea—to allow entrepreneurs a low-cost way to open a business in downtown Bowling Green—was devised by Tracy Brookshier, chair of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and president of the Chamber of Commerce. Several members of the committee also had a hand in bringing the idea to life, as well as, Community State Bank.

Brookshier’s vision is to have a Downtown Marketplace using several chalets on the lot. The money brought in from the rent on the chalets would be used to help improve the downtown area through beautification projects and to fund an outdoor theater, which would sit next to where the chalets are located.

Brookshier noted that once a business became established in a chalet, it could then move to one of the unoccupied buildings around or close to the town square, bringing more people back to the downtown area. One of the goals of the committee is to bring more foot traffic back to the center of town.

“It’s kind of empty in here right now,” Ally said, because she had a pretty good first two weeks of sales. Still, the shop had a number of items that she created, plus a consignment table where others could sell their unique creations.

“Pretty much everything is custom made,” she said. Ally has a Facebook page that features many of the items she sells—Allys Custom. A lot of her sales come from people who want something that no one else has. “And everything you see can be customized,” she added.

Ally is a nurse by profession but health concerns because of the coronavirus pandemic compelled her to pull back from that aspect of her life and concentrate on the crafting she so enjoys, and was using to supplement her income.

Ally said she’s always been obsessed with the sales site Etsy, where a lot of crafters sell the items they create. Friends and family would always come to her to create something different and fun.

“I’ve always thought of myself as being crafty,” she said. And Ally realized that producing unique items in the quantity needed would not be as hard as she first thought.

Crafting has a lot more thought in it than one might think, she explained. Most crafters have a true artists’ eye when it comes to creating their items.

She said she likes to look at social media for inspiration. Ally follows the trends to create the items she sells. In Pike County, she noted, it’s not that easy.

“I like to do the country western type stuff,” Ally said, “but a lot of people like the glam and glitzy stuff. So, it’s like I have the best of both worlds here.”

She comes by the crafting honestly. Her mother and grandmother have unique items for sale in the shop.

Ally grew up in Louisiana and moved to Bowling Green about three years ago. She was eager to get moved into the chalet, she explained, so she could participate in Christmas in the Green, but there was still a lot of finishing to do inside the building.

The frame was constructed by the workshop at the Northeast Correctional Center. It was moved into place during the summer and recently member of Alliance attached and leveled the porch, as well as grading the area around the chalet and attaching an ADA compliant ramp.

The inside was mostly unfinished, so Ally’s father, boyfriend and his family put in the floor and walls, and then panted and finished the trim. With an electric space heater, the building stays quite comfortable.

By helping finish the chalet, Ally said the Chamber of Commerce gave her a break on the rent.

“They are awesome to work with,” she said.

She also wants to give back to the community that is supporting her. Ally was about to set up a coat rack at her store to give away coats to people who need them. She said she has several of her own she wants to put on the rack and asked that anyone who has a gently used coat they no longer need to drop them off for the coat rack. Right next to her chalet is the Chamber’s Christmas tree, where used and new bicycles have been placed for families in need.

In addition to all the items she creates, such as one-of-a-kind vinyl T-Shirts, Ally also offers a giftwrapping service.

If she can get her business established in the chalet, Alley said, she would want to move into a more permanent location downtown. She has the space rented through January, and might rent it for a few more months after that.

“I am worried that without the Christmas gift giving time of year business will get really slow,” she said.

And that’s one of the reasons the Downtown Marketplace chalet is so good for up and coming retail businesses, Brookshier noted during a committee meeting. It allows them to get established without too much financial risk.

The shop is open Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m-5 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The rest of the week, she’s at home creating the custom orders, she gets through her Facebook page or over the phone.

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