You never know what you’ll find at the Consumer Mall on KY-144. Some shoppers find antiques, others find clothing and decor, but the Smith family has found years of purpose.
Owner TA Smith said having the opportunity to meet people and hear their stories is the best part of the job. “Like the items in the store, our vendors and customers all have varied and interesting backgrounds that add to the dynamic personality that is Consumer Mall,” he said.
TA Smith opened the business in 1984 and ran it until 2006 when Trader Baker’s bought it. Last summer, he bought the mall back.
“We started in ’84, displaying our own items and trying to make such a large space look full,” he said. Little by little, they concurred the task of making the 60,000 square foot space look full. “As any small business owner will understand, it took the public’s support to grow and thrive,” he said. “Connecting with that public has been my greatest joy throughout these many years.”
The Consumer Mall is also satisfying for TA’s wife, Cathy Smith, who enjoys the design aspect of the mall and getting to build booths with diverse items. “I also really have enjoyed working with my family on this project and growing a business together,” she said. “So many days we come home and continue talking about the business and how to improve things and grow it together. It’s a collaborative process that has really brought everyone together.”
In fact, it brought home their son, Barrett Smith to fill the role of general manager for a stint.
Barrett Smith said working at the mall has been a rewarding experience for him, from both a nostalgic and business standpoint. “I grew up visiting the store and shopping when I was young,” he said, recounting that his first job was helping run the cash register at his dad’s booth in the early 90’s. “Granted I was way too young to actually be in the workforce but I did run the register with one of his employees overseeing. I loved every minute of it!”
While Barrett is set for a move to Washington D.C. in January, he’s been happy to help manage the store. “My favorite part is the challenge and responsibility of making decisions that concern every aspect of the business, he said. “I have learned so much in a short span of time and I know these lessons will be with me forever.”
“We have well-organized clothing – especially kids clothing – at excellent prices,” said Cathy Smith. “We have great furniture of all styles, wall decorations, glassware, kitchen accessories and more. Our store truly has an amazing variety and it changes constantly.”
Those interesting finds are brought in by vendors who scour the state and beyond for items and organize their booths well. “If you walk into our store and leave empty-handed, you just didn’t spend enough time looking,” she said.
She noted that the industry has seen a resurgence in younger customers, that aren’t antique hunters or collectors. That’s attributed to a new wave of interior design that mixes modern traditional with traditional statement pieces. “One point that the public should know is that we have many pieces in our store that would go with a younger shopper.”
This resurgence means it’s a good time to think about the future. “We are looking forward to continued expansion and improvements within the business,” said TA Smith. “Since we took back control of the business last year, we have found continued room for improvement and we look forward to much more in the future. It has also been very nice to hear compliments from the public about the cleanliness and efficiency of our store.”
Anyone can participate as a vendor at the Consumer Mall. They currently have 150 vendors and welcome new ones regularly.
“It’s such a great opportunity for the public to sell items from their house or storage unit in order to consolidate their items or make some extra money on the side,” TA Smith said.