Creating a resilient economy with pop-up stores: a Q & A with Marissa Loewen

Resilience. What does that mean for our local economy? This is just one of the questions being explored at our Resilience Festival next weekend, and we were thrilled to have a chance to chat with Marissa Loewen of On the Spot Pop Ups about the impact of short-term shops featuring independent makers on a resilient local economy.


Photo courtesy of Nicole Ashley.

We asked the Qs, and Marissa gave us tons of insight in her As:

LG: What is a popup store?

ML: A pop-up is any type of temporary retail, art installation or demonstration that typically occurs in unexpected places. However, pop-ups have come to mean a variety of other displays. We look at it as an opportunity to shift the made local initiative and the art as business concept into an everyday intentional consumer approach.

LG: Why do you think pop-ups are important?

ML: We tend to accumulate a lot of empty space in Canada, and across North America. Whether that’s in vacant shopping and living areas or even in existing business — we have so much space. Pop-ups allow groups to interrupt people’s habits by presenting a temporary option in these empty spaces. It really ties in the idea of placemaking — making spaces people want to congregate in. We use pop-ups for two important goals — to strengthen our madelocal and art community in terms of providing them a space to build their business and as a type of open house for the spaces we fill. Many times a vacant space will sit unnoticed until we open up the possibilities of what can happen there.

LG: How do pop-up stores impact a community? Create community?

ML: I touched on it a bit above but it really can change a community. There are amazing brick & mortar businesses in neighbourhoods where there may be less foot traffic or perceptions of safety or availability. We hold a pop-up there and bring our traffic to that community. We encourage shopping in the neighbourhood while they are there.


Photo courtesy of On The Spot Pop Ups.

LG: How did you get involved in creating a pop-up community?

ML: We ran a couple of pop-ups in the old Duchess space on 124 Street three years ago and we had an overwhelming response from both vendors and shoppers so we continued on around the city.

LG: How do pop-ups impact the local economy, and do you see them as a significant driver for our local economy? How do they create a resilient economy?

ML: Pop-ups act as an open house for empty space, bringing people into the space and into the community. They are one tool in creating a change in not only the shoplocal scene but the shoppingmadelocal initiative. They are lowcost alternatives to long-term leasing, provide an urgency to buy because of the temporary availability and the ability to really disrupt consumer’s expectations. We incorporate an art forest in locations — simple wooden “trees” allow paintings to be hung and distributed in a non-linear line. They are portable and fit in small or large spaces. We can sell art anywhere with this art forest, and do so with great success.

They create a resilient economy by using small and big spaces in a temporary way to fill [vacancies] and use it for the good of the made-local initiative. When a community supports the local artists, designers and artisans it also creates a thriving economic shift — the money spent here gets infused into the community here.

LG: What kinds of pop-up events can Edmontonians look forward to?

We are planning a pop-up cake shop, a made-local component of art walk and we’re partnering with Etsy again to create an online/offline global/localmade thrust.

LG: What are people going to learn about in your Resilience Fest session?

ML: How they can create a pop-up for their product, service or event to help boost their marketing efforts and create lasting impressions in their target audience.

LG: Why do you love pop ups?

ML: High energy, temporary events are amazing. Recently an acquaintance posted on Facebook that she had been shopping for two days and couldn’t stop thinking that anything she wanted to buy could be found and made locally. That felt incredible. I also love them because our makers have been able to create outstanding foundations for their businesses — some even heading into full-time making!

Check out Marissa’s Resilience Festival session on Sunday, Feb.8, at 11.45 a.m. – 12.45 p.m.

About Marliss Weber

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