Gathering Gallery Promotes Inclusion & Supports Small Businesses

DTR’s new Gathering Gallery does good by promoting inclusivity and supporting local.

If you’re all about making your dollar count, check out one of DTR’s newest storefronts, Gathering Gallery. Founded by former Wake County Public Schools teacher Erica Heilmann, the East Hargett Street shop is dedicated to selling locally made items and curated brands that are ecofriendly, handmade, fair trade, women-opened or Black-owned—and not on Amazon (think Designed for Joy, the first local brand with which Heilmann partnered). 

And—extending her mission to do good and make an impact—at the beginning of the year, Gathering Gallery also started employing adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The ultimate pivot, Gathering Gallery was born out of Heilmann’s desire for a career change that maintained her impact on the community once she determined returning to teaching wasn’t in the cards. After taking a leave of absence during the virtual 2020–21 school year to give students safe in-person interaction—teaching four children from three families (her “pod family”)—she joined The Locality, a hub for Triangle-based female entrepreneurs to connect and collaborate, which earned her the know-how to make Gathering Gallery a reality. 

“When I landed on the concept of having my own retail store and employing adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” she says, “I knew I had found the right fit.”

So Heilmann sold her house in Cary to fund her business and moved to Downtown Raleigh, putting together her store in a matter of weeks with the help of her pod family—with intentional design details like a kids’ nook complete with comfortable seating, and space between the aisles for strollers and four-legged friends. And speaking of those four-legged friends and being all-inclusive, you can of course pick something up for Fido (think dog toys, treats and accessories) while shopping for yourself.

“I chose the name Gathering Gallery because I want my store to be an oasis—a comfortable, peaceful space where everyone is welcome,” says Heilmann. 

Stocking her store with local products to support her surrounding community was also important to Heilmann, as, she says, “I couldn’t have done it without the community around me,” adding: “That is why I think of it as the store the community built and the community the store built. The second part is just beginning.” 

Plans for that second part include art openings, pop-ups, private shopping parties, First Friday events and more—making Gathering Gallery the perfect place to gather. We’ll see you there, Raleigh. @gatheringgallerync

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.