Pop-Up Retail Incubator Launching Downtown
A new pop-up retail incubator is closing the gap between local independent retailers and vacant storefronts Downtown. The Gay Street Collaborative, the Downtown Special Improvement District and The Columbus Foundation are collaborating on POP Columbus — a dual storefront space retailers can rent for anywhere between one day and two months, located at 44 N. High St.
POP Columbus presents a win-win-win situation. Independent retailers have a lower barrier to entry in the Downtown market, landlords fill empty storefronts, and the consumer demand for more retail is met.
“Local retailers have expressed interest Downtown, and landlords are interested in leasing vacant spaces, but there’s some work to be done to bring the two parties together,” said Walker Evans, president of the Gay Street Collaborative.
While there are plenty of empty storefronts, getting them shopper-ready is a costly endeavor most independent retailers can’t afford, not to mention the long-term commitment most landlords expect when rehabbing a property.
“This project is extremely important for Downtown because it provides the opportunity for small-scale, independent retail to test consumer demand before making a long-term lease commitment,” says Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of Capital Crossroads SID. “It lowers a barrier to entry that is too high for most operators.”
With a $70,000 grant from The Columbus Foundation and a willing landlord, POP Columbus will transform the former convenience store into two white-box retail spaces.
“It really is only being made possible by the fact that we have a landlord that’s willing to think outside the box a little bit,” Evans says of the building’s owner Lauren Tonti.
POP Columbus will take the building back to a more original form with exposed brick, hardwood floors, high ceilings, with minimal other additions.
“It will become a blank canvas,” Evans says.
The program will host businesses from two approximately 1,600 square foot storefronts, one with an entrance on High Street and the other on Pearl Alley. It’s an ideal location with established business operating on either side — Flying Gent and Cafe Napolitana on High and El Arepazo and Alley Bar on Pearl.
“It’s also a great location from the Collaborative’s and the SID’s perspective because it sits in the footprint of the Moonlight Market, the Sunlight Market and the Pearl Market,” adds Evans.
Those three events bring a steady flow of foot traffic to the area during the spring and summer months. In addition to a built-in audience, POP Columbus will help its retail tenants with marketing and social media support.
“If it drives more people to the area, then everyone else around it benefits,” Evans says. “We feel really strongly that it’s going to help everyone, including our local restaurants, bars and cafes.”
Customers can expect a diverse list of retailers to occupy the space. Most hardlines and softlines retail concepts are fair game, from men’s and/or women’s apparel, to home goods, to pre-packaged food products. What POP Columbus is not looking for includes prepared to-go foods, restaurants, pawn shops and non-retail uses (like office space for example).
The Gay Street Collaborative will administer the POP Columbus program with support from the SID. The program will start accepting rental applications today, with options for one day, two day, one week, one month and two month plans. There’s flexibility as well, for different time frames or the opportunity to extend a lease if a business sees success in the first two months.
The short-term goal of the POP Columbus program is to give local businesses a unique opportunity to expose their brand to a larger market. A constant churn of news business will give shoppers a reason to keep coming back.
“The long-term goal is to find someone who wants to stay,” Evans says, whether that’s stay in the POP Columbus space or spin out into another storefront nearby.
The organizers also see this is a scalable concept.
“We’re treating this as a pilot program — which means that it’s really more of a pop-up retail ‘framework’ that can be applied to any space with any landlord, and customized to fit,” Evans says.
POP Columbus is aiming for a spring 2017 launch to coincide with the start of market season.
For more information, visit popcolumbus.com.
— Read more about the business side of POP Columbus on The Metropreneur. —