Tioga's tiny buildings transition small business owners

TIOGA, N.D. - The City of Tioga is using tiny buildings to transition small business owners from working in homes to having permanent Main Street locations. The temporary micro-businesses give start-ups more exposure while keeping rent low.

Back Shed Treasures is a store Corinne Wilburn opened this winter. She buys second-hand items from flea markets, thrift stores, and rummage sales across North Dakota, and turns them into something new.

Wilburn said, “Looking at something from a different angle gives it a totally different look. Like the bed springs. When I talked to the lady at the flea market, she’s like, ‘So what are you going to do with them, make Christmas trees?’ And I’m like no make lighting things with them. She was confused. She didn’t see the vision for it, but I could see it. When I picked it up I thought it would look really cool as a light.”

Wilburn’s solo business ventures started with stitching.

More than 20 years ago, she created neck warmers and hats for her own children, and “their friends saw them. Their friends parents asked for them, so I started making them for birthday presents, and I thought, well if that many people like these, maybe I should try selling them.”

Now, her shop is one of many that have popped up in Tioga within the last few years. The city wanted to encourage more growth with their two micro-retail locations.

David Papineau Tioga Chamber of Commerce President stated, “It’s hard to jump into a thousand-square-foot Main Street location, so it’s kind of that in-between step to hopefully nurture them along the way.”

The goal is to eventually transition entrepreneurs like Wilburn into permanent locations, so that new businesses can develop.

The city says the community has responded to their micro-retail idea positively, so they want to place more downtown when the weather gets warmer.