Beatrice “Bea” Hamilton is the owner of two businesses downtown: BeAbundant, an upscale home furnishings store, and J.B. Mapes & Co., a combination bistro and boutique. Both businesses are in homage to a Reno of the past, showcasing stylish atmospheres and unique items to create memorable shopping and dining experiences.
“I’m a 50 year resident of Reno and I remember when downtown was a place to shop and be with family and friends – it was a shopping Mecca in fact,” says Bea of Reno in her childhood.
After high school Bea travelled to Europe and lived in San Francisco for a number of years where she worked in the personnel department at the St. Francis Hotel. But upon returning to Reno she found a downtown greatly changed.
“All of the sudden, downtown had turned into a ghost town,” said Bea, who ascribed the shift of commercial businesses to the newly opened Park Lane and Meadowood Malls, both of which were located in more suburban areas in South Reno.
Fueled by memories of her childhood and a strong vision for the potential of Reno’s downtown district, Beatrice decided to start her own business.
Beatrice found a vacant space in the Mason building on 1st St just east of Sierra.
“It had been empty for 10 years,” said Beatrice. “There were two inches of flood mud.”
But high water didn’t stop Beatrice, and BeAbundant opened in May, 2005. Beatrice transformed the space into a shop full of high-end linens, small furniture, and specialty items. She saw her mission as providing home furnishings that would “help accommodate the condominiums that were being built [at that time]: The Palladio, Montage, and River Condominiums.”
In the wake of the housing market collapse, however, many of the condominiums were never filled. “Because the location of my store was off the beaten path I had to figure out how to bring more business to my store,” said Beatrice.
“I started thinking about a restaurant,” she said. Her family had been in the restaurant business and Beatrice thought that perhaps a nearby restaurant, if operated properly, could actually create cross marketing opportunities and form a symbiotic relationship with her current store.
Beatrice initially considered the southeast corner space of Sierra and 1st St, where the Starbucks had been previously.
“I used that space for retail for a while and got a feel of what it would be like to have a small café there. Ultimately it wasn’t the right location. Then [our current location] came up and I thought that this might be a good place for bistro.”
Beatrice worked with Gracie Bartholet at the Nevada Small Business Development Center (Nevada SBDC) to assess her financials and develop a financing strategy. Ultimately, Beatrice was able to negotiate a tenant agreement with the owners of the Palladio to rent the space and conduct the build out. After four and a half months of hard work, Beatrice opened J.B. Mapes & Co., American Bistro and Boutique.
The bistro serves a mix of American and European dishes in an elegant, upscale atmosphere that is refreshingly contemporary in Reno. But there’s a surprising side as well.
“Everything is for sale in here,” explained Beatrice, “all the furniture, the light fixtures, the paintings, the seating.” Her items are purchasable and are all the more attractive displayed like they would be in a stylish home.
She also cross-markets her store, BeAbundant, to her restaurant customers.
“I have a 20 percent coupon that I give to people who dine here – they can use that over in the shop.”
Beatrice is a graduate of NxLeveL for Entrepreneurs, a 13-week course on entrepreneurship, taught through the Nevada SBDC.
“The syllabus is still in my office,” said Beatrice. “John Smith was the closing speaker. He stressed that your business should bring you more life, abundant life, and I thought, ‘Yes, that’s the way it should be.’”
When asked what advice she’d give to current or future business owners, Beatrice went on to say, “We’re not in this alone; we very much need support from friends, business associates, customers, and clients who say, ‘This is a good thing that you’re doing, we support you, we’re glad you started a business.’ I think it gives people hope about the future.”