Tiny retail park opens in Williston

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Sage Clothing Boutique and Provisions, one of the participants of the tiny retail market. (JP Oprison/WUFT News)

Following the creation of a tiny house resort and the addition of a market, Homestead Tiny House Co. introduced its tiny retail park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 9 at 11:30 a.m. and a grand opening on June 11 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., paving Williston’s path from a small hidden town to a national local destination.

With tiny house retail shops, restaurants and a beer and wine bar, Homestead Park has transformed a rural area into a community gathering place, co-owner Guido Jessen said. The grand opening brought more than 500 people. Festivities included a cornhole tournament with cash prizes, Bungalow Burgers and Heidi’s Pretzels for dining, and live music from Gainesville musician Richy Stano.

“It’s amazing what they’ve done,” Stano said.

The team began with establishing Homestead Tiny House Resorts in July 2020, which has a coffee shop and seven houses, 270 square feet each, that can be rented through Airbnb.

In June 2021, the team saw a chance to turn an old, abandoned Winn Dixie shopping center into something that would bring more life to Williston, a town with a population of less than 3,000. Homestead Park, a multi-purpose retail and tiny house facility, has thus been opening in stages over the past year.

The first addition was The Market on June 12, 2021, featuring local goods such as jewelry, honey and plants. Within the market space, two demo tiny houses were added for tours.

Now, with retail shops open for business, the park lives up to its multi-use reputation, and the open-air design makes for a comfortable gathering place.

The Williston City Council supports the project, reviewing site plans and helping with challenges, City Manager Jackie Gorman said.

“We’re so excited because it offers something for everyone,” Gorman said. “We think it’s going to be a wonderful thing for the city of Williston.”

Resident Angela Fannin said she’s happy to see something that will keep money in Williston and modernize the town.

“It’s more like something you would see in a big city,” she said.

Fannin would like to see the park bring businesses Williston does not have, such as a cosmetology studio.

“We’d love to be able to support other business owners in the community,” she said.

Resident Susan Travis would like to see a business that teaches arts and crafts to provide a hands-on activity.

“You come and paint or create pottery with a group of friends, and you drink a little wine,” she said. “It’s perfect.”

No matter what is added, much more is yet to come, warranty specialist Paul Burns said.

Taco Freeway will open this Tuesday. In July, the team will add two Olympic size sand volleyball courts, a playground with two tiny houses to play on, and a jewelry shop called Fringe. In August, a CK sweets shop will open.

Eventually, the Sad Donkey Coffee shop from the resort will relocate to the park, offering guests their morning cup of Joe and pastries such as muffins and bagels. (JP Oprison/WUFT News)

More retail spots are also coming, as vendors vie for one of the three remaining spaces, 1,000 square feet each, Burns said. The company is selective in who gets to rent one to bring the best products.

“They want this to be a high-end kind of place,” Burns said.

As development continues, Matt Crandell, co-founder, president and CEO of Homestead Tiny House Co., said he hopes more young people come.

“For the Southeast, we want to be representative of what a tiny culture could be,” Crandell said.

Vendors too will play a vital role in development and have much to gain from doing business in the park. For those unable to afford a large space, a tiny store is the perfect alternative, Crandell said. As more vendors come, a wider range of products will be offered, from jewelry to toys.

“This is a city that you can come visit and get everything you want,” Crandell said.

From vendors to vacationers, Crandell said the company wants to attract people across the country, who will put money into Williston’s economy and create jobs.

“We want to build something that’s so unique that people consider it a destination,” he said.

Site of the future indoor lodging (back), steakhouse and concert hall. (JP Oprison/WUFT News)

Ultimately, Crandell said the park’s expansion and events, from live music to tiny house tours every Friday and Saturday, will keep Williston residents coming back.

“I will definitely be a frequent flyer there,” wrote Williston resident Carey Strickland in a text. “I loved the atmosphere along with the awesome concept of the layout of the park. I cannot wait to see what it’s going to look like when it’s completely finished!”

For now, the company continues hosting events. On Saturday morning, the team hosted two goat yoga classes.

At 7 p.m. on Monday, an amateur cornhole league will start and last eight weeks, said Dena Battle, marketing and events coordinator.

On July 1, the company will host “Spark in the Park” for July Fourth, Battle said. Live music by local artist Houston Keen will last from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by line dancing from 7 to 9:30. Cheesecake will be served from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The next day, the team will host “Red, White and Brews,” with a happy hour from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and pretzels served at Heidi’s from 4 to 7, according to Battle.

On July 8 and 9, the team will host a garage sale, with 25 spots for sellers.

“I’m very excited to do the rest of the building,” Jessen said. “I think it’s going to be huge for Williston.”

 

About J.P. Oprison

Joseph is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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