A vacancy on Central Ave. is valuable and establishing a memorable business – even when you have a contract that reminds you it’s temporary – can be exciting.
“I really wanted to create an atmosphere and a business that would honor my grandmother’s legacy,” says Liz Calver, St. Pete native and the founder of Betty Shop, a casual clothing boutique located at 1114 Central Ave. “I wanted it to really reflect her style and her lifestyle, and mine as well.”
Calver’s grandmother passed away before she was born, but her memory is taking shape in the newly re-opened boutique. “My grandmother was a music teacher, an artist, she loved to travel and was very much into water conservationism,” she explains.
The 37-year-old entrepreneur focuses on offering clients laid-back clothing items that reflect a beach lifestyle, another influence that grew from an early relationship with the beach, and with her mother, a former boat captain.
Although she doesn’t have a business background, Calver explains that the memories of her relative’s successful family-owned businesses inspired her to come up with the shop’s concept. “The relationships that they had with their customers and co-workers always came first. To me, that’s really important. My background is just learning through seeing what my family has done and how they’ve treated business.”
Calver recounts stories of her grandfather, a former president of Carrier, the air conditioning company. “It mattered to him what people in the company felt and that they were comfortable in their environment. He would shut the whole company down and buy Martinis for all the workers. He was just the coolest guy.”
Although Calver expresses her excitement about getting a business running in St. Pete, when she opened her store in 2012 a sudden turn of events made her take longer to relocate.
Betty’s Shop originated in Hyde Park Village in Tampa. At the time, Calver explains, “spaces for pop-ups were too expensive to rent in St. Petersburg.
“We had a huge following, people loved the shop, they loved coming in and just hanging out.”We did really well and then the property village was brought out by a foreign corporation. They evicted me and five other businesses.”
The business owners had two weeks to pack up their items and move out. “It was like the Twilight Zone. Everything you’ve worked so hard for … and then it’s gone,” she adds. Three years later a conversation with a photography studio owner about a potential space for rent on Central Avenue. made Calver rethink the possibility of reopening Betty Shop.
Now, she counts the support of other business owners a few feet away from her own space, and can enjoy what she had intended from the start: Conversations with clients that can become friends.
“I was just talking to my husband earlier about this woman I met at the shop, and we talked for half an hour. We had so much in common and she’s gonna come back and hang out,” Calver says.
As she becomes more comfortable in the St. Pete location, Calver’s connections with businesses close and far from her own become stronger. She sells records for the owner of Hello Darlin’ Records – a mobile retail truck – and will soon be offering customized “Betty candles” from Milagro’s Soap, a homemade candle company in Colorado.
Running a business must be all about building relationships. Calver is sure this is the reason behind her entrepreneurial spirit. She has included her family in her own business story, and is now focused on building a strong client base. Her store’s lease ends in the spring of next year. “The thing is, for me, it’s not about making the money, it’s truly not like that,” Calver says. “For me, it’s about relationships. That’s what I’m here for.”