Carmel officials hope city grants, new leadership will make All Things Carmel profitable

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Maria Cook contributed to this report

Since opening in 2016, All Things Carmel has lost more than $150,000, but city officials hope that with a new business plan and leadership team in place it will become profitable enough to support itself.

“We’re looking for a better way to manage the store and have it stand on its own as a not-for-profit that promotes Carmel,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said.

The Carmel City Center Community Development Corporation – a nonprofit also known as 4CDC – launched the shop to sell items promoting Carmel, such as T-shirts, coffee mugs and memorabilia. It has been the sole entity financially responsible for the store, but that will soon change. The City of Carmel approved $192,560 in its 2020 Community Relations and Economic Development Dept. budget to help transition the store out of 4CDC management into the hands of a new nonprofit called Promote Carmel, which is expected to be formed by the end of the year.

“In the past, the store was supported by both its own revenues and money from the 4CDC, which used money from the lease payments for spaces under the 4CDC’s control. This was not taxpayer dollars. This will continue through the end of 2019,” said Nancy Heck, Carmel’s director of community relations and economic development. “Beginning in 2020, the store will become the responsibility of the new nonprofit. As this transition occurs, my department will grant funds to assist in the promotion of Carmel through this retail outlet. It is uncertain how much money will be used to get the store self-sustaining at this time.”

City spokesman Dan McFeely said All Things Carmel is projected to lose approximately $66,000 in 2019, not including lease payments for the prime space at 110 W. Main St, Suite 104. He provided information from the city’s accountant that showed the shop lost $46,944 in 2018 and $48,096 in 2017.

McFeely declined to provide the lease amount, stating that the figure is “kept confidential for competitive reasons,” but a 2017 monthly cash flow projection lists the monthly rate at $3,768 at the end of 2017.

The city has also supported All Things Carmel as a customer. Online records show that the City of Carmel spent nearly $1,600 at the store in 2017 for tote bags for an employee picnic and prizes for an employee breakfast. In 2018 the city spent more than $6,000 for umbrellas for an employee breakfast.

Brainard said the decision to use a city grant to support All Things Carmel is similar to the startup of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt. The city provided more than $400,000 in grants to launch it in 2017, but by its third season it became profitable enough to operate without city grant support.

“We set that up right from the beginning,” Brainard said. “We can set up the (All Things Carmel) store to work like that, too. We have smart people who know how to do this. It’s just that we had the wrong people doing it.”

At a September budget meeting, Heck told the city council that she has “great hopes we can turn the store around.” She said 2018 gross sales were $3,000 but were already at $6,000 with several months to go in 2019. McFeely said updated numbers will be available in January after the holiday season.

“The city plans to modify the mission of the store to include more promotional activities for Carmel by way of being at more public events, offering more free, tourist-friendly informational brochures and working closely with the city’s economic development and community relations department to become self-sufficient as soon as possible,” McFeely said.

Brainard said he envisions All Things Carmel, which has volunteer workers and paid employees, operating similar to a museum store. He said several cities have similar arrangements with shops, such as New York City.

Several upgrades are planned at All Things Carmel, including new inventory, electronics and a website that will provide an online shopping option, which is not currently available. McFeely’s wife, Sue McFeely, is acting manager of the store, and Brainard said he hopes she’ll become director of the nonprofit’s board when it is established.

The 4CDC is a nonprofit organization that exists to support the mission of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission. The nonprofit receives its funding from monthly lease payments for spaces under its control, including offices in the James Building and on Main Street in the Arts & Design District. It has also received funding through CRC grants.

4CDC President Jack Ragland declined to comment for this story as of press time.

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