FLOYD — A yurt, a big blue school bus and a BBQ truck pull into a downtown parking lot.
It’s not the setup for a corny joke, but Floyd’s answer to the shopping mall — with an outdoor dining room, a piano, an outhouse and a mannequin wearing short-shorts thrown in for spice.
“OuterSpace,” as it’s called, opened in June and brings a trio of homegrown businesses together at one location. It was the idea of Grateful Bread bakery owner Barb Gillespie and Erika Johnson, co-founder of FloydFest, with help from Jon Beegle of the Bootleg BBQ food truck.
Gillespie approached her parents, Lester Gillespie and Martha Taylor, about converting the downtown Floyd parking lot they have owned since 1997 into a retail and restaurant hub.
“They said they wanted to try an experiment, and we said, sure, go for it,” according to Taylor.
So Gillespie and Johnson joined Bootleg BBQ, Beegle’s Alabama-style barbecue food truck, at the Locust Street location where he has operated for about six years.
“The three of us have been friends for a long time,” Beegle said. “I had always wanted to create an outdoor space there. It’s a little bit more funky than I am. I’m a little more straight-laced than they are, but it works, I think.”
Now people can eat barbecue, drink a smoothie, sample a Grateful Bread pastry and shop at Grateful Threads, Gillespie’s new vintage clothing store housed in a converted big blue school bus. There, alongside antique aprons and frocks, Gillespie sells musical instruments and Buddha statues.
Gillespie said she bought the bus — which has hardwood floors and a sky mural on its ceiling — about five years ago from a FloydFest coffee vendor. It’s been sitting in the lot since then.
“It’s just been waiting for the right energies,” Gillespie said.
When Johnson, who had run her Revolution Juice smoothie stand at FloydFest since 2014, wanted to open a permanent location, the idea came together.
Operating out of a yurt she built with her mom, Sharon Morley, Johnson makes a range of dairy- and sugar-free smoothies from fresh fruits and vegetables and supplements like locally produced CDB oil.
“I’ve always kind of been a diet-nutrition-exercise enthusiast,” Johnson said. “I’m kind of the healthiest person I know, so I figure what works for me will help somebody else.”
To give people a reason to gather, Gillespie said the business partners hired a friend to build a timber frame outdoor dining area in the middle of the lot. There people can enjoy the eclectic commercial culture of Floyd.
“It’s been well received,” Gillespie said. “In terms of financial gain, we’ll see how that goes. If nothing else, we’ve provided a great hangout space for people all over Floyd.”
On a recent Friday, local composer Pat Mathews smoked a hemp cigarette and played an upright piano, while Melissa Radford served barbecue to construction workers on lunch break from a nearby summer road project.
In between customers, Radford, a 40-year-old Floyd native, mused on the change businesses like OuterSpace have brought to town.
“On Friday and Saturday nights, there will be all kinds of people sitting out here,” Radford said. “You know, that’s a nice thing just to see everybody communicating.
“This is probably one of the most diverse places ever, and when I was 17, I never thought those words would come out of my mouth, ever,” Radford added. “But it’s good, you know.”
For Beegle, who serves on the Floyd County Economic Development Authority, OuterSpace represents a way to grow job opportunities in town. Since it opened, he said he has expanded his food truck open hours and added a new employee. And the collective adds to the commercial offerings downtown.
“The thing I like about it is we’re not duplicating anything that was already in Floyd,” Beegle said. “It’s unique and different on its own.”
The partners said they will continue expanding their offerings. There are plans for an outdoor kitchen to serve popup brunches and dinners, and they hope to draw musicians to the spot. Gillespie wants to do her welding art at OuterSpace, and Johnson said she plans to plant a hemp garden there.
“There’s so much we can do with the name,” Johnson said. “It just gives us free license to be as weird as we want to be.”