Dixie Garage

Lucas Wassner is the owner of Dixie Garage, a men’s supply shop, located in downtown Florence on Mobile Street. He grew up in Muscle Shoals and got a degree in outdoor recreation at the University of North Alabama. He then worked as a park ranger in South Dakota at Wind Cave National Park for three seasons. After he and his wife spent a month on the road and two months in Florida, they decided to come back to Florence. For a year and a half Lucas was the manager at Alabama Outdoors then he left to open Dixie Garage August 2015. For the first six months he shared a space on College Street with another business. That space is actually where he got the name for his business; Dixie Garage is what his friend called the space prior to him moving in. February 2016, Lucas moved Dixie Garage to 110 East Mobile Street. I asked him why he chose downtown Florence and he said, “because I love downtown Florence, I love the people and the events. It is the place to be.”

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Dixie Garage is such a unique store, I was very curious as to what inspired Lucas to start his business. He told me that he was seeing a new store for women opening up every other week. There was a need in the community for a men’s store. There are many boutiques in the area for women, so why not for men? He wanted to open a store where men could find original products that couldn’t just be found in department stores. He was tired of getting the same basic stuff.

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Just like most new businesses, Lucas faced challenges when starting his business. He said one of the hardest things was getting exposure. To get a jump on getting their name out, the Dixie Garage Instagram account was started a month before they opened their doors. They also set up booths at First Fridays downtown. Another challenge he mentioned is that starting and managing your own business takes a lot of time and effort. Lucas and his wife, Chelsea, are the only ones working at Dixie Garage. With a one year old daughter and a baby boy on the way, time and effort will be an ongoing challenge.

When it comes to the future, Lucas does not really want to open multiple locations. He would rather make the one location a destination, a place where people come from out of town to shop. He would like to grow his inventory, have a wider variety of products, and get more people in the door.

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Lucas is a few months shy of the one year anniversary of Dixie Garage’s opening. It is always best to take advice from someone that has been in the same situation, so I asked him what advice he would give to someone wanting to start their own business. He simply replied, “Quit talking about it and do it.”

We talked about the difficult parts of owning a business but what are the rewards? Lucas said his inventory is made up mostly of makers products, products that are locally made. He said they get just as excited when he makes sells. He is glad to help them by doing this.

My final question for Lucas was how did he want to impact the community. He told me he wants to be new and fresh always and he wants to bring in lots of traffic from other places. One way he is doing this is by Bingo Night. Monday April 18 was the first Bingo Night hosted by Dixie Garage at 116 on Mobile Street. Lucas said it was a great turn out and he hopes to make it a monthly event.

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We are just as excited to see how Lucas and Dixie Garage will change and grow the community! They are open Monday 11-5 and Tuesday-Saturday 11-7. Stop in and check out all the cool products they have!

Sew What’s Your Passion?

Storefront of Thread in Downtown Florence.

Storefront of Thread in Downtown Florence. (Click to visit Thread’s website!)

The first of February this year Ashlee Haddock opened her relocated business, Thread, in downtown Florence. Thread is a fabric store that has everything you could need for sewing, even classes to teach you how. The store originally opened in 2010 in Tuscumbia. It was not until November 2013 that Ashlee bought the store from Alyson Ray. When I asked Ashlee why she chose to relocate to downtown Florence she informed me there were a few reasons for this change. Ashlee stated, “Downtown Florence is really growing and booming.” She also told me she needed a bigger space for her business. Ashlee also noted that the building she relocated to is actually the building where Wilson’s Fabrics was located. The owner of the building, Rob Wilson, is the son of the couple who opened Wilson’s Fabrics in 1949. Many who have grown up in the Shoals area can remember going to Wilson’s with their parents or grandparents. Ashlee said she had many memories herself. In 2010, after 61 years of operation, Wilson’s closed their doors. With such a background, the space does seem just perfect for Thread.

Inside the building prior to Thread moving in.

Inside the building prior to Thread moving in.

Inside after Thread moved in.

Inside after Thread moved in.

Ashlee was born and raised in the area. She and her husband, Brad Haddock, and their two children moved back to Florence from Florida about seven years ago. She taught P.E. for 21 years. I was curious to what inspired her to purchase Thread. Ashlee said, “I have always had a passion for sewing. It is my creative outlet, my therapy, my go-to.” When Alyson approached Ashlee about selling the store to her, it was an easy decision for Ashlee. She said it was “a dream came true.” While she enjoyed teaching, she had reached a time in her life where she needed a change. Ashlee said, “Life happens and changes your priorities and perspectives,” and she said you need to “find your passion.” I believe Ashlee is proof that it is never too late to chase your dreams and follow your passion.

As someone going on three years of owning her own business, I asked Ashlee what advice she had for someone who wanted to start their own business. Ashlee said, “Do it! Don’t be afraid. I was a school teacher and could have stayed in my comfort zone, but you just have to go all in. If it works, that is great. If not, pick yourself up. Don’t get discouraged.” She also said, “You need to know what people want. Buying is a big thing and you need to know how much to buy, not too little or too much.” Ashlee recently had a class from UNA visit. She talked to them about being buyers and going to market. One thing she said to keep in mind when going to market is just because you like it does not mean your customers will.

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Ashlee clearly loves what she does. When asked what the most rewarding part of owning Thread is, she said the customers. She loves “seeing the customers after they finish a quilt or whatever it is.” Seeing them so excited and fulfilled by what they have accomplished is an award all in itself. Quilting Retailer magazine just had an article about Thread, Ashlee said, “it is cool to have that peer review.”

While it has it rewards and benefits, there are difficulties to overcome. I asked Ashlee about hardships she has to deal with. She stated the biggest difficulty she is faced with is finding out what people want. Ashlee said, “What I want to do or class I want to teach, isn’t always what everyone else wants. It is trying to get them interested and giving them what they want that gets business and raises revenue.” She also said another problem she has is finding her limits for saying no to people. While you want to meet customers’ needs, you have to know when and where to draw the line.

Being new to downtown Florence, I was interested in the future Ashlee has in store for Thread. So I asked Ashlee about her long-term goals for her business. She said she wants “growing classes, more workshops, and collaborations with Unraveled or people with like-minded creativity and goals.” Ashlee wants to create a community of sewing. She said one thing she really loves is the sound of lots of machines going in her store during a class. I also asked her how she wants Thread to impact the community. Ashlee could not quite find the words she was looking for but one of her employees, Shelley Spidel, helped out and said just what Ashlee was thinking. Shelley said, “We want to create an environment that inspires creativity and fosters community among the makers of the Shoals.”

Click to see Thread's Class Calendar!

Click to see Thread’s Class Calendar!

Ashlee Haddock is truly an inspiring person and it was an honor to get to speak with her. Thread is located downtown next door to Unraveled, 213 North Court Street. Monday-Friday their hours are 10am-5:30pm, and Saturday 10am-3pm.

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