Nate Rosen, An Authority On All Things CPG, Launches Shops Around The Corner To Showcase Small Retailers

Nate Rosen, who delves into all things CPG at his newsletter Express Checkout, wants to celebrate the big business of small retail with new retail platform Shops Around The Corner

Launched Monday, the platform allows customers to search a curated database of independent brick-and-mortar retailers in a wide swath of merchandise categories, including specialty grocery and beverage, apparel and accessories, beauty, books, home and artisanal goods. At the outset, the database contains 42 shops, including beauty and wellness retailers ZGO Perfumery, Take Care, Sabia, Mills Pharmacy, Veer & Wander, Pop-Up Grocer and oo35mm. Customers can request stores be added to Shops Around The Corner’s database and will soon be able to leave reviews.

Inspired by his love for the 1998 Nora Ephron romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail,” Rosen and Shops Around The Corner co-founder Emmy Oleary describe the platform’s model as Thingtesting for small retailers. The co-founders met at out-of-home marketing agency Adgile Media Group, where Rosen previously held the position of chief of staff. Oleary currently serves as the agency’s director of customer success. Rosen, who formerly handled partnerships at e-commerce brand financing company Settle, is a partner at venture capital firm FirstLook Capital. 

“We want to create this dynamic space that empowers shoppers to make a good choice and also promote local entrepreneurship,” says Rosen, who started Express Checkout last year. “I went to a small liberal arts college. I loved exploring the town. I loved going to the small shops. I also love talking to founders and understanding where they came from, their passions, their interests, and then how we can help.”

Ideal candidates for Shops Around The Corner’s database are neighborhood retailers majority owned by their founders with footprints of between one and five stores. Staying true to its small business focus, Rosen says retailers that have raised venture capital or aggressive store expansion on their roadmaps aren’t likely to make the cut. He points to the Chicago-based specialty grocer Foxtrot as an example of the latter. 

“It’s like a small neighborhood store, but they have 50 locations in Chicago and D.C.,” he explains. “They’ve raised so much money and their ambitions are to scale to enterprise level.”

Shops Around The Corner turned to Andrew Bly of the creative agency ACB for its branding, but Rosen underscores that the existing version of its website is very much a work in progress. The mechanics and aesthetics of the site will evolve, and an e-commerce marketplace and B2B marketplace are slated to debut next year. 

“We’re very bullish on this,” says Rosen. “We have very good connections in this commerce ecosystem that I’m a 100% confident that we can get the right person to build out the website even further.”

Shops Around The Corner, a virtual database listing around 40 indie beauty, apparel, grocery, books, home and artisanal goods shops, went live on Monday. An e-commerce marketplace and B2B portal allowing shop owners to connect with each other and access resources will be added to the platform next year.

Shops Around The Corner’s B2B portal will enable small retailers to connect with each another and dive into educational content and expert guides on topics such as investment, lending and e-commerce. Rosen and Oleary will rely on their professional network of investors, operators and technology companies like Shopify and Square to develop the B2B portal. Fees may be required to access it down the line. There are currently no fees for retailers to list on Shops Around The Corner’s database. 

Shops Around The Corner is launching as small retailers struggle to stay afloat. Faced with mounting expenses, fierce competition and dwindling resources, several small beauty retailers have closed their doors, including Fig & Flower, Shen Beauty and Inside Outer Beauty Market. Larger brick-and-mortar retailers and e-tailers aren’t immune to the tricky market conditions. Department store Showfields filed for bankruptcy after closing two of its locations, while Neighborhood Goods is cutting staff amid financial setbacks. E-tailers NakedPoppy and Standard Dose recently shuttered.

Shops Around The Corner will attempt to generate brand awareness with content. In lieu of paid media or an aggressive social media strategy, a shopkeeper interview will be uploaded onto its site every week and subsequently be posted on X and LinkedIn. The site’s first interview, with Phoenix wine and grocery store Monsoon Market, is already on the site. The idea of amassing far-flung shops online isn’t novel. For instance, luxury marketplace Farfetch showcases over 1,400 global brands, boutiques and department stores.

Shops Around The Corner is leveraging Express Checkout’s readership base to spread the word about its concept. The newsletter has over 3,200 subscribers from across the CPG and nonprofit landscape, including from companies like KPMG, Sugar Capital, Victoria’s Secret, Rind Snacks, Foxtrot, Jones Road Beauty, Hershey’s and Bain Capital. “I’m betting on ourselves, honestly,” says Oleary. “I think that, given our reach, people are going to pay attention to Shops Around The Corner.” 

Shops Around The Corner is a scrappy, bootstrapped operation, and its co-founders plan to keep it that way for the long term. Rebekah Kondrat and Libby Shani, co-founders of retail consultancy firm Rekon Retail, are advisors to the platform. Revenues from Express Checkout are covering a portion of its initial startup costs. In the future, Oleary and Rosen hope the platform’s B2B portal will support its consumer-facing business through advertisements and strategic partnerships.

A year from now, Rosen aims to have at least one shop per state listed on Shops Around The Corner. “We’d love to have this community built out,” he says. “People like people who are passionate about things. So, that’s why we’re doing this.”