PEORIA — In and Out has been open and closed perhaps a bit more than its owner would prefer. It’s had a few name changes, too.
But it appears the store’s current incarnation might be right for In and Out owner Andre Ware and for the small-business proprietors and craftspeople who sell their wares from his space.
Located at Northwoods Mall, In and Out is a marketplace for about 50 Peoria-area vendors. They rent space from Ware. Among products they offer at In and Out are jewelry, clothing, pottery, books and accessories.
“We have a little bit of everything,” Ware said. “Our goal is to try to appeal to anybody who walks through the door.”
Ware was inspired by his parents, who operate The Cookie Shack. The local bakery operates online and has been part of the seasonal Peoria RiverFront Market. But Ware was looking to establish a venue where vendors could operate year-round.
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“My end goal is to make sure small businesses have a platform to sell their items on a consistent basis,” he said.
Open three years but often on the move
In his new location, near the Victoria’s Secret lingerie store at Northwoods, Ware believes he’s found some consistency.
Ware began his business in October 2018 in a strip mall on Brandywine Drive, across War Memorial Drive from Northwoods. But after about three months there, the building flooded. The store closed for a couple of months.
In April 2019, the store moved to the mall. But it was among businesses that closed in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic prompted mass shutdowns of commerce. That dovetailed with reshuffling of some retail space at Northwoods.
After operating from various craft shows during the heat of COVID-19, Ware received an opportunity to return to the mall. About six months ago, he did.
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Ware’s business has operated under various names. But if not always a formal title, In and Out has been a unifying theme.
“It’s the way the products are leaving the store,” he said. “We literally bring them in, and then they’re out.”
Some In and Out vendors are working toward opening brick-and-mortar stores of their own, according to Ware.
“What I envision for my vendors is they would be building their following up to the point where they can do it on their own, and then they’d be out,” he said.
‘It’s very expensive to own a business’
In that respect and others, In and Out fills a need, according to local business proprietor Stacy Hardin. She owns Book Rack Books & Gifts, located in a shopping center at 4408 N. Knoxville Ave. in Peoria, but also maintains a satellite operation at In and Out.
“It’s very expensive to own a business,” Hardin said. “There’s a lot of people who are really gifted at making crafts, but they can’t afford to open an entire store to sell those items.
“(This) gives people an opportunity to sell their items and not have such a high overhead.”
In and Out business has been good, to the point where Ware has expanded his days of operation, at least temporarily. In addition to its Friday-through-Sunday schedule, the store also now is open Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Being around craftspeople also has helped influence Ware to join them. He cuts and pastes pages of old books into new creations that feature photographs or slogans, among other things.
Although he sells his own items at In and Out, Ware also helps promote others’ products. Some vendors volunteer their sales services.
“That helps for the customers, too,” Ware said. “They like to see who actually made the items. Ninety-five percent of the items in the store are made by us. They like to see that connection.”