Top entrepreneurs: Edge City: Five Points Boutique is their work of art | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record
The legend | Sales 2020: $ 250,000
For more than 50 years, the Edge City retail store has been a landmark in the Five Points shopping and entertainment district on 1017 Park St. between Riverside and Brooklyn.
A lot has changed in that time, but after 45 years one icon remains: Gunnel Humphreys, owner of Edge City.
Swedish-born Humphreys and her business and life partner, the late Tom McCleery, bought the business from the original owners in 1975 for $ 3,000 – his severance payment from the office job that took him at Bethlehem Steel Corp. disappointed.
“It wasn’t anything we ever talked about. I think Tom had no other idea and the opportunity fell into our laps, ”said Humphreys.
Edge City opened in 1968 with three partners and is known for its selection of lifestyle-specific amenities such as waterbeds, psychedelic posters, incense, rolling paper and paraphernalia.
The idea to buy the small retail store in Five Points came from a friend and neighbor of Riverside, Wayne Wood, who introduced the couple to the purchase shortly after McCleery left his company job.
At first sight, Humphreys said they didn’t think the idea was worth considering.
“I think we kicked him out of the apartment,” she said.
“I remember they were a little annoyed that I was going to suggest that,” recalls Wood.
Gunnel Humphreys stocks her designer goods store and only buys three at a time, so her customers are unlikely to “walk down the street,” she said.
He’s one of the neighbors and supporters of Riverside and Avondale who are excited about the change in ownership and that Humphreys is still running the place.
“Gunnel is an artist and her shop is a work of art. Lots of people go to Edge City to check out the store. Their style and flair make it an attraction, ”said Wood.
Kelly Pickard is the co-owner of the Alewife Bottleshop and Tasting Room, just a few doors from Edge City. As a past president of the Five Points Merchants Association, she said Humphreys was a beloved member of the neighborhood.
“Gunnel is five points. The way that Edge City has struck the balance for decades not only to stay relevant but to continue to thrive in a developing neighborhood without ever losing the authenticity and unique character that defined it is real amazing, ”said Pickard.
When Humphreys and McCleery changed their minds and took over the place on Jan. 12, 1976, Edge City was depressing, she said.
It was furnished with worn shaggy carpeting and dusty cactus plants. There was a window air conditioner above the front door that dripped on customers as they came and went.
The transition to a clothing store began after visiting the boutique merchandise market in New York City, Humphreys said.
It was there that they discovered that screen printing could be good business for the home.
Humphreys, who was trained in graphic design and fashion merchandising, started making signature Edge City t-shirts that flew off the shelves, along with items they found in the market like cloth sandals made in China and in bright colors dyed military clothing.
“There was nothing like Edge City. We were the only unisex store in Jacksonville. We have what we liked in stock and we never considered ourselves successful, ”said Humphreys.
When McCleery died in 2016, Humphreys became the sole owner of Edge City. By then, the waterbeds and incense were long gone, being replaced by designer fashions and accessories for women aged 30 to 70 who want to wear something that is not available elsewhere in Jacksonville.
“It’s heartwarming to hear people tell stories when they came to Edge City years ago. I want to tell my customers that I represent their youth. They shopped in Edge City when they were 14 and are now coming to the store with their 14 year old kids, ”said Humphreys.
She no longer travels to the New York market. The sellers come to her in buses filled with the next season’s samples.
Revenue was $ 250,000 in 2020, a decrease of $ 5,000 per week in the nearly three months it closed due to COVD-19.
Edge City is equipped with exclusive designer labels from Spain, Greece and Canada.
Humphreys only buys three of each item – a small, medium, and large – to ensure their customers are unlikely to “see each other” in the street.
Edge City is a departure from modern retail and has no website. Humphreys tried.
“I don’t see how that can work for anyone. I had to take photos of the new goods and then remove them when the item sold. It took up all of my free time and put me in the packing and shipping business. “
The store’s social media presence is limited to five points on Instagram, where Humphreys posts photos of the latest clothes, blouses, shoes and accessories.
Humphreys, 77, walks or rides a bike from her Riverside apartment to open Edge City, 6 days a week, 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
She welcomes new customers and those who have been shopping at Edge City for years, and changes the storefronts with new merchandise or when she has a better design in mind.
Your day off is Tuesday if a part-time worker is in business.
Even after 45 years of routine, she is not considering retirement.
“Edge City is my home, my cozy living room. It’s my social life. All I do in my apartment is eat, sleep, clean and feed my cat, ”she said.
“There isn’t a day that I haven’t looked forward to going to the store. Maybe I’ll be here if the building falls down. “