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Michigan Small Businesses Turn Shipping Containers Into Storefronts

(CNN) - The Village of Sparta in Michigan is testing out a new idea and hoping it spurs economic development.

"It's been really great," said Jill Pfeiffle.

Pfeiffle is feeling optimistic. The small business owner is preparing for hopefully another busy week.

"The feedback has been great, people love that it's local makers," she said.

She owns Kiki + Crew Merchant Co-Op. It's a collective of 15 West Michigan makers, selling things like home decor and kids clothing.

Until recently they sold all of their product online, but this month they moved into a 180 square foot, renovated shipping container.

"It's been so fun to be a part of and so fun to be a part of something new, and growing, and a great idea," she said.

It's one of four businesses now operating in a space like it.

"We are finding these models all over Michigan and the United States to be fairly successful," said Elizabeth Morse.

The Village of Sparta and a private entity just launched the initiative after developing the concept the past two years.

"It's set up, ready for a retailer to move in, they just need to bring the pieces that really make it their own," she said.

Morse explains traditional brick and mortar stores are often too expensive for small startups, especially in Sparta where the only available properties require a full building renovation.

Rent for the containers ranges between $250 and $450 per month.

"It allows a business to start up in a space with virtually low overhead and learn the market most importantly," said Morse.

The goal is for the businesses to eventually open a traditional store near downtown, allowing other startups to move in, but also give locals and visitors a reason to stay a bit longer.

"Having all of those components is what we really think is the key to our success," said Morse.

"It's a really, really unique fun idea and we really just want to get people in here to check it out and see and to keep supporting local," said Pfeiffle.

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