Since its opening, Scout & Tag has been furnishing local homes with their chic, refurbished pieces. Read Nikki Hunt’s story of building Scout & Tag to be the consistent, creative, local business it is today.
Photos by Dan Austin
Nikki Hunt, owner of Scout & Tag, shares the valuable history of a local home and gift shop in downtown Lakeland. It is a shop she has developed and built where consumers stop by on a weekly basis (mostly buzzing in on Saturday mornings during the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market), because they can rest assured they will discover rare, timeless finds that are quick to become a piece they will treasure. The shop is full of Lakeland-specific, and usually Lakelander-made, gifts that celebrate the community’s heritage — whether that looks like a wooden carving of swans, pumpkins made from welded horseshoes, Lakeland’s coordinates stitched on a pillow, or a metal-script of local neighborhood names.
Hunt started off her artistic career by selling her refurbished furniture pieces at the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market. She did this consistently for over a year, lugging her found and redesigned pieces to Kentucky Avenue every Saturday morning at six o’clock. Her reliable, consistent presence at the market allowed shoppers to anticipate finding new and fresh designed pieces they were unlikely to find elsewhere … not only in Lakeland but nationwide
Hunt then began to sell her pieces in a vintage warehouse, renting her own space and unveiling her curated crafts there. Through this, she and a friend decided that they needed to develop their own space where they would house and sell their unique pieces. Thus, Scout & Tag opened downtown in December of 2014. The shop is named after her kids, Scout and Tag, and has been the name of Hunt’s company since she began selling at the outdoor market years ago.
Starting the shop involved taking small risks, such as selling in the market and any other local space available. “Proving your concept,” Hunt explains how important the beginning process is for a small business of your own. Similar to how she proved her concept at the market each week, Hunt believes this is the success of many business owners, including herself. She says, for creatives, this is especially fun, because people are anticipating you to create something new each time they return — promoting a bit of pressure, of course, yet also stretching your creative capability.
Although opening her shop was a bit unnerving, Hunt was able to depend on her husband and the support he brought to their family to grow the business. The shop’s opening day was also on the day of the Holiday Walkabout in Lakeland, which was beneficial since people were already downtown. After advertising, seeking press in newspapers, and launching their social media excitement about the anticipated unveiling, Scout & Tag quickly felt embraced by the community, especially since the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market and First Friday events were only a couple of steps outside the door.
EXPANDED SPACE AND WORKSHOPS
Scout & Tag started with only about 1,100 square feet in that December of 2014. Later, they expanded into a restaurant next door that had gone out of business. Today, the old kitchen of the restaurant is used as studio space to host workshops, including paint workshops specializing in chalk-painting furniture; calligraphy classes; Girls Night Out workshops, teaching how to create a personalized and elegantly crafted project while sipping wine and nibbling on cheese and chocolate; Mommy and Me workshops; and more to come.
Curated pieces arrive to the store not just weekly or biweekly, but daily. While the shop has buyers that search for pieces to sell at the store, Lakeland natives also add to the store’s offerings. Many items sold at Scout & Tag are made by local artists, and a portion of its inventory is even consigned there, allowing artisans to feature pieces in the shop.
Hunt strives for Scout & Tag to procure artisan curations that are well-done and creative items, and maintaining consistency in product artistic quality
Constantly working with other creators, the store’s most recent collaboration is with iNK Screen Printing for the new Lakeland T-shirt Club, selling a variety of tees that celebrate different aspects of Lakeland. Hunt is also joining with a new artist who recently completely a landscape series of Lakeland soon to be sold as prints in the store. She says it has been the most fun collaborating with newly discovered local artists. It’s just one of the reasons why she loves her job.
One of Hunt’s goals is to offer that one-of-a-kind piece that you just have to have, because these rare finds are something you just won’t come across elsewhere, and certainly not in a newly refurbished form. With many people these days moving, either downsizing or upgrading, Hunt hopes Scout & Tag is the location locals can come to, to adorn their spaces with modern or refurbished vintage pieces.
After asking Hunt if this profession is still something she is fond of, now that she is overwhelmingly invested in her store, she confidently responds, “Yes! Of course, there is and will be pressure with all the work to do and finding the right team to work with. Yet, it is still doubtlessly worth it.”
She is eager for the many new things in store at Scout & Tag, and excited for what future refurbishments behold, underneath all the antiquity and possibility.