NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A small business owner in New Port Richey is using his retail space to highlight other entrepreneurs in Florida.
Seeing the fruits of your labor can be such a unique experience.
For Nathan Ward, it’s the surrounding creativity each day that brings him the most joy. And there’s something about retail, according to Nathan, that he can’t get enough of.
“I started at Albertson’s, Winn-Dixie, Target, Publix,” Ward said. “So retail has kind of been my background since high school.”
Even though he was born deaf, that never stopped Ward from working and enjoying life.
“I mean, do what you know,” he said.
In 2019, he left his job at Publix and started his own candle making business.
“Pandemic hit, so it was a very, very slow start to do that business,” Ward said.
According to the National Library of Medicine, small business activity took a nosedive in the spring of 2020, with more than 3 million owners having to close their doors during that time.
But Ward’s love for small businesses got his creative juices flowing.
When he learned about a building in downtown New Port Richey that was for lease, he thought of a different kind of business that not only benefits him, but other entrepreneurs in Florida.
“It just kind of gave us all, you know, a little bit of a bump and keeping our business going,” Ward said.
He opened MADE - Artisan Hall, which exclusively sells products from over 50 small businesses in Florida that wouldn’t normally have retail space outside of weekend farmer’s markets.
“It was all word of mouth and it just spread like wildfire,” Ward said.
He rents space inside his shop for those businesses, and he gets about 15% of profits.
He learns as much as he can about each product so he can share the personal stories behind the objects.
“I’ll ask them some questions, or they just tell me everything that I need to know and you just kind of start to remember all you can about them,” Ward said.
He says those personal touches are why he loves working with local business owners in Florida.
“There’s always, always something new and creative,” said Ward. “You know, I could never tie a bow tie.”
Aside from profits, Ward says the greatest part about his shop is being able to show people his disability doesn’t hold him back.
“I actually had a deaf customer come in last week and when he realized I was the owner of the business, he was like, ‘You own the store’? I was like, ‘Yes,’” Ward said. “He goes, ‘That’s amazing.’ You don’t see very many deaf business owners like that.”
A fruit from his labor that makes his success sweeter than ever.
MADE - Artisan Hall opened its doors on Oct. 27.
Each vendor signs a six-month lease to rent a piece of the store to showcase their products.
Most of the products are from businesses in the Tampa Bay area, with a couple from places like Gainesville and Miami.