First two businesses at new Smalltown Plaza opening soon

Steve Wills recently was sitting inside American Legion Post 89 drinking a Big Red when he received some interesting news.

The bartender said the adjoining building that used to house the American Legion Annex had been purchased and was being renovated.

After doing some investigating, he learned it was being divided into five suites for local businesses.

Knowing he had a longtime passion for fishing and wanted to have his own bait and tackle shop, Wills was encouraged to call the new owners, Brad and Ashley Smith.

“I went down there and I talked to (Brad), and I decided right then that’s where I’d settle,” Wills said.

Next week, Wills plans to open Fishin Tales Bait and Tackle LLC in Suite C of what’s now known as Smalltown Plaza at 414 W. Second St.

Opening a business there is extra special for Wills because his late father, Steve E. Wills, once served as commander of American Legion Post 89. Steve E. was in the U.S. for four years, and Steve A. has been a son of the Legion for 44 years.

“It has all come back full circle because I used to go up to the American Legion all of the time,” he said. “I’d drive those old men crazy up there talking about fishing with them, and now, my shop is going to be kind of right there where it all started. It has kind of all connected together for me.”

The other business that has signed a five-year lease is ‘N Stylz Hair Design. That business has been in Seymour since 2010, including the first seven years at 321 E. Second St. and the past four in the Smith Law Services building at the corner of North Chestnut and West Second streets.

Owner/stylist Peggy Davis said the plan is to remain there through April 28 and then put the final touches on Suite A a couple of blocks away and open May 3.

“Now, we’re ready to move on to what I hope is going to be our final destination,” she said.

Brad Smith said he hopes to have another suite filled with a local business and the next-to-last suite with a restaurant by the end of July.

“Then we’re going to pour all of our effort into that last one,” he said of working on the suite on the far north end of the building and filling it in 2022.

Smith said the building went up for sale before the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020. Due to events being canceled and the facility not being used, the American Legion decided to sell it.

The Smiths’ offer was accepted in June, and renovation started in August. Brad said the original intention was to split the 10,000-square-foot building into suites. It previously was one large open room.

“Something this big is hard to lease, but when you split it up, it makes it a lot better,” he said.

For 10 years in the past, he owned and operated a similar type of building in Rushville. It previously was a tire shop, which drew his interest with running Smith’s Tire Sales Inc. in Seymour.

“At one point, I bought it with thinking ‘Open more tire stores,’” Brad said. “Then I got to seeing that it made its own money and I didn’t have to be there all of the time, so I thought, ‘Well, this works out pretty good.’”

A big difference was the Rushville building was already divided into suites and had tenants, while the Seymour building had to be divided up and he had to find lessees.

Since August, Brad and his father-in-law have done most of the work on the building.

“It took us probably three weeks just to tear out the old walls,” he said. “Then after that, we started framing the walls in the way we wanted them.”

Brad said they built the walls around the existing sprinkler system because it would have been expensive to redo it. Only four sprinkler heads had to be added.

The first three suites are about 1,500 square feet each, the one for the restaurant is a little bigger since it has side rooms and the last suite is a little bigger but has an odd shape.

Each one has a door facing the parking lot to the west and a back door that’s only for exiting into a hallway, where restrooms are located.

A new sidewalk also was put in along the west end of the building, and Smith said he plans to add an awning, too.

“The main reason I bought the building, honestly, is because of the parking. It’s got 80 parking spots out there,” he said. “If the parking wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have bought it.”

On the existing poles along the front part of the parking lot, Smith plans to put signs up with the names of the businesses so people know what’s inside.

He expects having one of the suites be a restaurant will help the other businesses.

“I think it’s better for all of the businesses here if we have something to do with food service,” he said. “Restaurants bring people. You can go here and get multiple things, and if there’s food down here, too, I just thought it would maybe help everybody and help the city, too.”

Restaurants have opened in the downtown in recent years and more are coming, and the Smiths wanted to include one at Smalltown Plaza.

“We’re seeing more and more interest in people moving to downtown and wanting to be and spend time downtown,” Brad said. “That was probably one of the ultimate drivers in me doing this, the small-town movement. That’s why it’s called Smalltown Plaza. I think there is interest in bringing a business downtown now that maybe wasn’t there before, and I think this could attract more people down here.”

Brad said Davis was the first person to approach him about being a tenant.

She said she found out about Smalltown Plaza via word of mouth and wanted to pursue it for a bigger working area and better parking.

“In the salon we’re in now, we’ve come to a point were we can’t grow, we’re full, and I would like to be able to add more stylists and a nail tech,” Davis said.

Counting herself, there are seven stylists at her shop now, and she hasn’t had a nail technician for a while.

At the new location, she said she could add four or five more stylists and a nail technician and will be able to add spray tans and facials and expand wedding packages.

“We definitely are high in demand for a nail tech and just to have the bigger, better, more open space and a lot more room for the girls to be a lot more comfortable and happy with what they are doing,” Davis said.

Front-door parking will be huge, too, and the suite will be the only one with windows, which face West Second Street, so there will be better exposure, she said.

‘N Stylz will have the same hours — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Wills was the next one to sign a lease. He said having his own bait and tackle shop has been a dream since he was 4.

“I’ve always had a love for fishing. Fishing is life,” he said, noting the Rockford Dam north of Seymour is where it all started. “My dad had a love for fishing, my grandpa gave the love to my dad and my dad gave the love to me.”

Ever since Bassmasters closed several years ago, Seymour has been without a bait and tackle shop, so Wills is glad to bring that back.

“I’m probably more knowledgeable than the average person when it comes to tackle and rods and reels,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve always done.”

Wills is in the process of sorting through all of his inventory, which includes soft plastic and hard bait, and obtaining a special permit to sell live bait.

He will later add rods and reels, and he also wants to open an archery shop this summer and then put ice fishing equipment in that space in the winter.

Even though his store hasn’t opened yet, Wills said he already has a lot of people expressing interest.

“It’s mostly the old guys at the American Legion. I remember when I was a young kid going in there pestering them. Now, I’m their age,” Wills said, laughing. “My dad’s best friend was Tom James. Him and Don Schleter, those two guys have been the biggest supporters of this whole deal. It’s pretty cool.”

Creating a Facebook page for the business and sharing information on his personal page have reeled people in, too.

“Oh, I’m already getting phone calls. I bet I get 30 phone calls a day now,” Wills said. “There are people actually stopping up there (at the plaza) asking if it’s open.”

In the beginning, Wills plans to be open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

“Monday and Tuesday are going to be my days to go fish,” he said, laughing.

Starting his own business is exciting, but Wills said there’s one thing he wishes he could change.

“The only thing that really upsets me about the whole deal is my mom and dad aren’t alive to see it,” he said. “Especially my dad because he would get a kick out of it.”

He, however, knows they would be proud of what he’s doing.

“Everything just happened right on time,” Wills said. “It was like it was meant to be. It was just meant to be.”

At a glance

Smalltown Plaza is at 414 W. Second St., Seymour.

Smalltown Plaza LLC is owned by Brad and Ashley Smith. They also run Smith’s Tire Sales Inc. in Seymour, and they have two daughters, Arabella, 9, and Kennedy, 7 months.

Two tenants already have signed leases, and the Smiths are looking for three others, including one being a restaurant.

For information, email sma[email protected] or visit facebook.com/smalltown.plaza.9.

Fishin Tales Bait and Tackle LLC, owned by Steve Wills, in Suite C will be the first business to open. For information, call 812-530-9821 or visit facebook.com/Fishin-Tales-Bait-and-Tackle-1454118338005918.

‘N Stylz Hair Design, owned by Peggy Davis, plans to open May 3 in Suite A. For information, call 812-405-2410 or visit facebook.com/nstylz.