Summer 2020
Market on the Square By Julie McCallum

A Tennessee retailer that offers old-school approaches and an array of enticing merchandise

Market on the Square is a family-owned and operated business in the heart of Cookeville, Tennessee. The mother-daughter team of Marlene Massa and Mara Johnson takes great pride in offering the latest in home décor, kitchenware, fashion and accessories along with good, old-fashioned customer service.

Merchandise display at Market on the Square
Photos courtesy of Market on the Square

Gift Shop recently sat down with Massa to learn more about how the store is faring during 2020.

Marlene Massa, owner of Market on the Square
Marlene Massa

Gift Shop: Tell us a little about the history of Market on the Square…

Marlene Massa: When I came here, Market on the Square was all consignment so I rented a 6-foot by 8-foot space to display mostly things I made along with a few brands like Dolly Mama and Dirty Girl Soaps. I named my shop Ooh La La! It wasn’t long (2004) before I became partners with the owner at the time and following that, I acquired my partner’s half and The Market on the Square was mine! It took a few years and now, I do not have any renters and all merchandise in the store belongs to me. I try to keep the idea of the original store by having different products in different spaces. My customers seem to enjoy that atmosphere.

A Market on the Square merchandise display

GS: Describe your product mix…

MM: MOTS, as we call her, has a wide variety of products. You can come in and get anything from a mezzaluna to a rubber bath toy! We have wonderful fashion for all ages and bodies, beautiful home décor, shoes, jewelry, you name it.

GS: What is your store’s specialty?

MM: We pride ourselves on old school customer service. We say hello as soon as we see you and thank you for coming as you leave. We offer complimentary gift wrapping because gift giving is our specialty. We will deliver, ship, whatever it takes to make our customers happy and coming back.

Market on the Square Jewelry Display

GS: Did you keep selling during the shut-down?

MM: At the beginning of the shut down our only sales were through our website. We beefed up products, offered sales, and changed our strategies just as we all had to do. We began offering Facetime shopping, curbside service, delivery, and phone sales.

GS: Are there any products you’ve added since reopening after the COVID-19 shut-down?

MM: Since the COVID shutdown we have added products like masks and keys to keep your hands free. We have looked for products that will keep people safe and healthy. We also added more activity products like puzzles. Things people can enjoy doing at home.

Market on the Square's old-fashioned, quaint merchandise displays

GS: Are you displaying products differently to accommodate customers socially distancing?

MM: We have put up social distancing signs and arrows on the floor to keep a flow through our store. We have also purchased face masks and give one to every customer that shops with us. We provide hand sanitizers at each register and a station as you come in and leave the store.

Going forward, I will keep in mind that priorities have changed both socially and economically and will conduct business as such. That being said, I believe people will still want to shop. We plan on giving our customers great merchandise, great customer service, and a safe clean place to find those things.

Julie McCallum

Julie McCallum is editor-in-chief of Gift Shop Magazine. She is formerly the editor of Museums & More and has more than 25 years experience in publishing.

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