Pop-up retailers are on the rise in Greater Boston
The success of 1 Lincoln Street, which opened in the summer, convinced the four entrepreneurs to extend the experience over the holidays. Each of the women behind these small businesses are now considering finding a permanent location.
“I want this to help them incubate their concept,” Allison Yee said. She is the founder of Project: Pop-Up, a rapidly growing partnership between retailers, real estate owners and municipalities in Greater Boston with a mission to drive innovation and local commerce.
In a world of big box stores and door-to-door delivery, many shoppers are increasingly looking for intimate experiences that could make their purchases and gifts more meaningful, Yee said. For seven years, she worked for WS Development, based in Chestnut Hill, where she launched the company’s retail incubation division.
In 2018, she set out on her own with UpNext, a “matchmaking” initiative that links independent brands to physical spaces. This led to the launch this year of Project: Pop-Up, funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.
Nationally, pop-up stores first took hold in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, according to Yee.
“People are excited to discover emerging brands in their neighborhood,” she said. “I’m excited that Greater Boston, my home, is growing. It really makes perfect sense. She no longer needs to explain what a “pop-up store” is.
For several years now, the owners of Newbury Street in Boston have found creative solutions for vacant storefront homes. Founded in Wellesley, Tracksmith, which sells clothing and running gear, tested the brick-and-mortar model before making a definitive commitment to its Trackhouse location on Newbury Street.
“Or look at Burton, the snowboard company,” said Emily Isenberg, founder of venue design consultancy Isenberg Projects. “They did a pop-up a few years ago, and now they have a long-term space on Newbury Street. We’re starting to see it become a much more normal method.
Isenberg typically coordinates with major developers to help fill in their gaps. In 2016, as Harvard University moved deeper into the Allston neighborhood across the Charles River, she oversaw the temporary home of Barry’s Shop, a unique creative pop-up inspired by the artist. pop Claes Oldenburg.
Yee presents his case to chambers of commerce in suburban towns and villages, and sometimes directly to the mayor’s office. This fall, Project: Pop-Up has temporary locations in Newton, Needham and Melrose, where the Melrose Collective features personalized merchandise by artist Jill Paz and the Roü-Mi candle by Prisca Mbiye.
Mbiye, who grew up in Lawrence, learned to make candles herself (with the help of YouTube videos) a few years ago.
“I’ve always been a big buyer of candles,” she says. “The Home Goods candle section is my favorite place.”
Naming her business Roü-Mi – with a nod to her favorite poet, Rumi – she started selling her products on Etsy, but struggled to maintain a business that way. Customers want to smell her candles before buying one, she says.
“They always remember the smell,” she said. “It’s like music to me – if I hear a particular song, I can remember where I was when I first heard it.”
KerriAnne Sejour met Mbiye while they were both attending Wheaton College. She went to an opening night in Melrose, then returned for a candle-making workshop during the Halloween season, dressed in a costume.
“I like to find brands owned by blacks, owned by women,” she says. “Brands that have a mission behind them and that are booming. “
Melrose’s Recent Transplant Tabitha Crowell stopped by the Melrose Space and purchased a portrait of Paz for a friend. During the visit, she was intrigued by the third tenant, My Sunday Afternoon, or MYSA, founded by Alli Russell, which sells a collection of “consciously selected products” and conducts workshops “to support life at a better pace. slow “.
Crowell, a project manager, has signed up for an embroidery class, and she’s trying to get her boyfriend to take a lesson in cookie frosting.
“The environment she creates is so warm and welcoming,” Crowell said. “I’m a huge fan of art and Etsy. Downtown Melrose is obviously very cute and their shop is super appealing.
With a pop-up, said Yee, a small business owner “can set foot in the door to create something special, maybe closer to home.
“We’re seeing a ton of demand from entrepreneurs to bring their products closer to home,” Yee said. “And municipalities are interested in increasing local retailing in their neighborhoods. We see such a development happening in city centers and on main streets. “
Other innovators are building ephemeral spaces to help revitalize shopping districts in communities around Boston. Over the summer, Somerville-based CultureHouse hosted events, workshops and a gallery in a vacant Peabody storefront. The Sunday Collective, a sustainable-minded children’s clothing brand created by the husband and wife team of Jae and Chloe Kim, has opened a pop-up vacation boutique in The Street, the modern Chestnut Hill shopping district. The Grand View Farm in Burlington will host a pop-up market on Sunday, December 5, to name just one of many such events.
“We see pop-ups as a retail experiment,” said Yee, who has been approached for consultation by people representing communities as far away as Denver. “It’s a whole new layer that’s a sensory experience. It allows you to play with the concept, bring different collaborations and have fun with it.
While the pandemic has clearly contributed to instability in retail, Yee said, the concept of the pop-up is here to stay.
“I think if you’re not going for super-fast convenience, you’re more thoughtful, more intentional with your purchases. These are local brands that have a story behind them, and you can interact with the founder. so much more importance.
Before starting to import her French sea salts, Boston resident Karen Pevenstein often visited the pop-up shops on Newbury Street.
“I like to go into the store and talk to someone,” she says. “It’s cool to talk to people about where the product is coming from. “
Self-proclaimed Francophile – working just around the corner from a popular Newton Highlands pastry shop took “all her will,” she jokes – Pevenstein fell in love with the sea salts hand-harvested by “the salt workers”, or salt marshes workers, in Brittany. It went directly to farmers and became their exclusive distributor in the United States.
These days, she’s usually in the front and center of 1 Lincoln’s door, ready to pour samples of her sea salts into the hands of every curious customer.
“It will literally turn your scrambled or hard-boiled egg,” she says. “It is so good.”
James Sullivan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.