The village of Homewood will not be coordinating and marketing pop-up shops this holiday season.
The decision might disappoint some local shoppers, but permanent store owners likely will not miss the program. Some of them were not pleased with the village’s sponsorship of the pop-up shops.
The village of Homewood initiated pop-up shops during the 2013 holiday season and sponsored them for several weeks during the spring and winter of 2014.
The intention of the pop-up shop program was to create options that would bring more shoppers to Homewood and fill some otherwise empty storefronts.
But the presence of the pop-up shops and the village’s efforts to market them caused some concern among owners of permanent downtown businesses. Some of them felt the pop-up shops could hurt their sales.
Village Manager Jim Marino said the decision not to pursue the program this year was due to those concerns.
Pop-up shops can still operate, but they will do so as independent temporary businesses rather than as part of a village program.
At least one will do so.
Wink & Belle, coordinated by jewelry artist Dodi Wians, opened Wednesday at 2049 Ridge Road, but it is operating as an independent co-op of vendors.
Julie Lawton, director of the Downtown Homewood Business Association* (DHBA), suggested independence for pop-ups might be a good solution.
Lawton has seen the pop-up issue from both sides and said she appreciates both the benefits and complications of the practice. She is a partner in Upsa Daisy, a boutique shop that opened in March on Martin Avenue.
But first, it was a pop-up shop.
Upsa Daisy could be seen as an ideal result of the pop-up shop strategy. Village officials have said one purpose of the temporary shops is to give potential store owners a chance to test the market, get retail experience and consider whether they should open a permanent store.
Lawton said the pop-up shop she and her partners and vendors operated during the 2014 holiday season did just that. The shop had sales success and got good feedback from customers, she said.
“It really did help us decide to open Upsa Daisy,” she said. “We wouldn’t have had the confidence otherwise.”
But now that she’s a permanent shop owner and director of a small-business organization, she sees the downside of pop-ups, too. She said established businesses worry about losing sales to pop-ups, which don’t have all the overhead costs that permanent stores have. Without the same responsibilities of a store, pop-ups have more pricing flexibility, she said.
“We’re paying taxes. We’re paying rent,” she noted.
The main concern is not with pop-up vendors who are seriously exploring their retail potential but with vendors who might be taking advantage of the pop-up situation, Lawton said.
“There have to be some guidelines,” she said.
This year, independent pop-ups will have to comply with more regulations than they have in the past. Village officials said pop-up vendors will have to obtain a temporary business license and will have to document sales tax payments.
Anna Devries, village public relations coordinator, said independent pop-up shops will be welcome, although they will have to make arrangements for space and promote themselves.
“It’s all about shopping Homewood,” she said.
Devries and Homewood Events Manager Allisa Opyd informally helped promote an independent pop-up shop that operated on Ridge Road this past summer. People’s Pop-Up was organized by Allison Burnett and was open at 2045 Ridge Road from May 21 to June 27.
As Lawton notes, “Empty storefronts are not good for anyone.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Wians, a long-time Homewood retailer. She started Art 4 Soul, a shop on Harwood Avenue that sells collectibles and offers art classes, and operated the business for 15 years before selling it. And she founded DHBA.
She said she understands the concerns of permanent shops, but she thinks the pop-ups have something unique to contribute.
“We’re not in competition with anybody. We’re going to add just another element to the town,” she said.
She pointed to the village of La Grange as an example of what Homewood could aspire to.
“They have so much there. It draws people in,” she said. “We need more stuff in our downtown. To be able to fill in these shops would revitalize this whole area.”
Wians said one goal with Wink & Belle is to lay the groundwork for something that could become a permanent feature in downtown Homewood. She envisions an arts and crafts co-op that would give creative local people a place to show and sell their work.
* This story originally referred to the organization as the Homewood Business Association, a name change that now is expected to go into effect early in 2016.