FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Opening a local business amid a pandemic and economic crunch is not ideal, but several Forsyth County business owners are taking the initiative to begin their new ventures and put people to work.
At Halycon, the 135-acre mixed-use development in south Forsyth County, six new businesses have either opened or will begin operations in the coming weeks. The Collection shopping outlet in Cumming has also recently welcomed a new retailer.
On June 20, Clarissa Gibson opened her new shop, The Gibson Co. at Halcyon. Gibson Co. is a home-décor and gift store featuring unique and one-of-a-kind creations made in-house and by local artists.
Gibson had no prior business ownership experience before opening her first venture, “The Redo Gal,” a furniture restoration firm run out of her garage with her husband and mother-in-law working along by her side.
The family opened their first shop in 2016 in a cottage in north Forsyth County, expanded to included décor and are now operating location No. 2 at Halcyon.
Gibson said she had her eye trained on Halcyon for some time and decided to move forward with the location despite the current economic uncertainty.
“While no one can predict the future, the most encouraging part of this year is that it seems like there is a new excitement in the air,” she said. “I think we have all recognized the value of spending more time with each other, laughing and dreaming. We believe this location at Halcyon will provide the perfect atmosphere for that.”
Gibson made a significant gamble opening her first business around six years ago, and of course, opening another location in a crippled economy is a risk, but one she thinks is worth taking.
“It is a scary and exciting feeling all at once,” Gibson said. “Most great things are exactly that. It is when you turn your fear into fuel and decide you're going to let control go, take a risk and have a little faith. And with that, here we are. Of course, there were obstacles and of course, there still will be. Our hope is that we can use our energy and passion to do some good in our community.”
At least one business opening its doors has seen an increase in sales amid the pandemic.
Owner Starla Pellegrino will open the doors of Unexpected Pooch Boutique & Bistro in Halcyon on August 8. The concept blends pet nutrition and pet fashion with a French bistro environment.
Pellegrino’s first location, in the Alpharetta Crossing Shopping Center, has experienced a growth in sales in recent months despite the business switching its platform to curbside pickup, online shipping and delivery.
Pellegrino said a positive attitude is “always in style,” and believes the foot traffic friendly environment of Halcyon will allow her second location to thrive, even amid a pandemic.
Women’s fashion boutique Versona, which offers apparel, jewelry and accessories, opened June 11 at The Collection. The company had planned to open 156 stores this year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that figure has been reduced to 60.
Rob Dornan, regional vice president for Versona, said the company chose The Collection for the dense population of the area and that they could fill a niche the mall needed.
It is an exciting time for Versona, Dornan said, because its competitors are shutting their doors while the company continues to add new locations. The pandemic, as well as the prevalence of online shopping, has cut into the pockets of all brick-and-mortar store owners, Dornan said, but people still enjoy shopping in person.
Along with the Gibson Co., two other businesses opened in late June at Halcyon. Pilates and dance studio “Joey” opened June 29 and Salata, which offers customizable salads and wraps, began operations on June 25, becoming the company’s 10th location in Georgia.
Two new additions have also opened in Halcyon’s Market Hall. CT Al Pastor is a quick-service concept from CT Cantina Taqueria, also in the complex. Holmes Slice features pizza from wood-burning ovens opened by Taylor Neary, owner and head chef of Restaurant Holmes.