Meet the Owner Series presents…
The Green Monkey gift shop is just like its name, fun and unique! Located off of Hillsborough Street, there is more than meets the eye when approaching the shop. This hidden gem is a welcoming space, with colorful walls and speciality pieces of local art surrounding the store. Owner Rusty Sutton had a vision of starting a business and wanted to focus on equality, religious diversity and pride. Starting with a tent at the Raleigh Flea Market in 2007, Sutton always knew he would have his own brick and mortar one day, but didn’t exactly know when or how. In 2010, Sutton moved into a permanent spot inside the flea market and started to take some classes pertaining to starting his own business. With a little help from his friend’s mom, he started to look at potential locations to call home. When he first encountered the location he is currently in, he hated it and stopped the search. Sutton then continued at his permanent spot in the flea market until the spring of 2013, when he decided to the give the location another try. He saw the growth of Hillsborough Street and the surrounding community and could envision his own store there.
The beginnings of the The Green Monkey were not the easiest. The previous tenant was a convenient store, which caused some muddled customers. Sutton attempted to combine the gift shop aspect of his business with the existing shop for six months and it failed. He saw that his business was going under and said “If we are going down, we are going down my way and if we don’t, I am going to second guess myself for the rest of my life.” This is when he ditched the grocery and stuck to things he wanted to do. He gained back his loyal customers and the business began to bloom. Since 2015, The Green Monkey has seen double digit growth every month and Sutton could not be happier. Although he does not take any of the credit, stating “It was just a stroke of luck, but it really is my passion,” he stuck with his vision for owning his own business.
I asked Sutton what makes local businesses in Raleigh so special and his response was the owners. “People keep saying that retail is dead, but you know what is dead is being ignored and not having any service.” Sutton says that at The Monkey, they know about all of their products, where they came from and the story behind it. “We want people to be a little bit happier after leaving.”
Speaking of customers, The Green Monkey has a group of loyal customers called “Monkey Fans.” Suttons mentioned that it is no longer rare to encounter shoppers midday. He finds that people come from out of town and are looking for a gift shop, but typically find much more than gifts.
For people starting their own business, Sutton gave 3 words of advice: business plan, accountant and attorney. The Green Monkey only had one of those things and it took them many years to get to their current place. He told me a story about a song called “Three” by Lauren Alaina. The song talks about all of the things/events she missed just to have a song for three minutes on the radio. Sutton says that he has missed a lot of different things. “To be a successful business owner, there is a price to be paid and you have to do everything you possibly can.” Failure was not an option for The Green Monkey and Sutton worked as hard as possible so that did not happen. Sutton works in the store everyday and loves what The Green Monkey has become. In addition, his partner has worked extremely hard along side him to create an inviting and welcoming place that is truly awesome.
I asked Rusty to describe his store as a genre of music and he laughed and said Country Pop. “A lot of times it can be fun, but it can also be drinking a beer at the bar, sad as he**”
The Green Monkey gives back to the community every chance they get, in many different ways such as the food drive they hosted to raise awareness of the hunger that occurs during the summer. Once a month they host a “Fabulous Friday” where a they have a volunteer bartender come in and work and 10 percent of the proceeds from the night go to their charity of choice. One of their favorite donations goes to LGBT Center of Raleigh’s volunteer of the month. The volunteer receives a $25 gift certificate and Sutton says “We want them to continue volunteering there, they need people because everyone needs a good center as a resource in this community.”
The Green Monkey is a speciality craft beer bar, a gift shop and a place for local artists to share their work. “Look at it this way, it’s a flamboyant bottle shop or a butch gift shop,” says Sutton. “It can be anything you want it to be, and for us it’s the happy place.”
Written by Megan Brown
Shop Local Raleigh Intern
The Green Monkey
1217 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27603