The Pop-Up Retail Model by Nicole McGee, Artist and Entrepreneur
My own small business is called, “Plenty Underfoot” and the work that I do as an entrepreneur was founding the “Upcycle Parts Shop” which is like a thrift store meets arts supply store where we can collect the donations of lots of materials and have them in one place and inspire people from that place.
We also run a pop-up boutique called, “Collective Upcycle” where we bring together the work that lots of people throughout the Cleveland, Ohio area do and we activate vacant spaces.
Pop-Ups are what I’ve mentioned before and what we’re doing right now. So we’re “popping-up” a vacant space and I want to talk a little more about what that might mean.
Some people use the term “pop-up” for a day long festivals or weekends which is sort of “popping-up” but what we think of as a pop-up is a season in a space, at least five weeks, maybe six. This time we’re in a space in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland, Ohio for twelve weeks which is double the length we’ve ever done one.
What it is is a shop that we make look like any shop. Most people would walk in here and have no idea we are not a “brick and mortar” store. We’re here bringing together the goods of multiple people.
There’s one check out, and as artists, this is a model that I created with a couple of artist friends where we said, “You know, when you go to a handmade festival, you’re paying to be there, you’re making this stuff so you had to spend to get there, and you’re sitting there and you’re not making stuff while you’re sitting there.”
So, you are sort of paying three different times. That was my assessment. It’s a really big investment to sitting here and selling my stuff because I’m spent in a couple of different ways.
So this is an alternative to that in that somebody else is handling the stuff, I don’t have to be here as an artist, my things are being sold and my story is being told through them.
Above: Upcycle Parts Shop Tour with Katherine Readey Chilcote,
Co-Founder, Cleveland Colectivo. The Shop is a recipient of Cleveland Colectivo startup investment and a replicable model designed to catalyze creativity for economic development.
It’s enough space where we can bring people’s stuff together and it’s not too much space. I’ve learned that lesson. We’ve been in as big as three thousand square feet. We’ve been in a place like that where we had to bring in a lot of furniture and set up a ton of vignettes, which looked beautiful but wasn’t really worth the amount of schlepping.
I will say for a six week shop, it’s just as much work setting up a legit brick and mortar, so you want to know how much you have to do to make it ready, to make it look like a real shop people want to spend money in.
This time we have worked with a local manufacturer who has wooden tills. These are boxes, like beehives, or deep shoe boxes kind of things with little tiny holes and the manufacturer is finished with them, they do samples. They are really substantial wooden boxes. So, we brought those in this time to utilize as our display and make furniture, which is a new choice but it looks pretty interesting and those are for sale as well.
So, that is us reharnessing the power of re-use, demonstrating it, activating the space with it and selling them as well.
That is kind of a fun thing. Different pop-ups have different flavors and themes to them.
So, we’re paying electricity, which is understandable but other than that we are not paying rent, which is definitely something I would suggest people argue for because what we’re doing is excellent demonstration of what this space could become. We know that’s a service that we’re providing as well as them providing a service for us as free rent.
It’s an exchange and it’s always worth thinking about the small things like electricity and security and who’s going to shovel the sidewalks when it starts snowing here in Cleveland?
Even though we start these discussions months ahead and nobody thinks about snow, we’ve learned to think about these things because we’re like “fake” tenants. We get invited to the merchant meetings, I always feel a little like a fraud but it’s really fun to be there.
We act as if we’re a real place and we make friends with our neighbors and we try to do promotions with the local movie theater and restaurants.
So, that’s a little bit about how we do the pop-up model. The more we do it the more interest people have and we get invited to be all over the region. Capacity has always been our issue and we’re pretty good at know our capacity. We haven’t been able to say yes to all the invitations but there’s definitely a model there worth pursuing if you are thinking about that.
What I get excited about is the opportunities and resources that exist all around us. That’s my business, that’s my work and that’s sort of what this model is in a different way. If there are vacant spaces and you’re in a neighborhood that nobody’s going to, there’s probably another option. It might not be this one.
But if you're in a neighborhood that already has some commerce and foot traffic, then this is a great way to activate and bring together resources, and people and energy and momentum and make a pop-up.
Nicole McGee, is Co-Founder, Cleveland Colectivo and Artistic Director, Upcycle Parts Shop and Collective Upcycle, a pop-up boutique.
Nicole sells her artwork directly to local neighborhoods in showcase pop-up boutiques. The Upcycle Parts Shop, specializes in the creative re-use of business waste.
Visit the Upcycle Parts Shop online here.
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