What comes to mind when you hear “Pop-Up Shop?” You probably think of those awful Spirit Halloween shops, which thankfully, are gone for now. Those are really seasonal stores, reminiscent of the Christmas shops that would pop up each year in the local mall when I was a kid. A pop-up shop is one that literally pops up in a space for a very short time, often to build brand awareness or to sell a limited edition item.

My favorite pop-up shop, which isn’t really a pop-up, it’s more like pop-up shop art is Prada Marfa located on a lonely stretch of highway in west Texas. The piece was installed by the artists Elmgreen and Dragset, who call it a “pop architectural land art project.” It is striking because of its location, which is probably why it seems like a pop-up store, which is turning out to be permanent but perpetually temporary. 

I proposed a sort of a pop-up shop idea a decade or so ago to my husband: We buy a building with a storefront and for $10,000 we provide a month-long “experience” to people who want to try out their “shop” concept. My thinking was that many women dream of having a shop but don’t want to take the chance. I figured husbands often cannot think of what to get their wives for a gift and this would allow him to give her a shot at her dream. For ten grand, she’d get the use of the space, signage and marketing help. If it looked like she’d be successful she’d move into a permanent space and if not, she’s had a great $10,000 learning experience, the equivalent of three college classes, not bad, I thought. Hubby did not go for it.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a store in California, Vacant, which had already begun experimenting with the concept. They would open, sell out their merchandise and close and move to a different location. While the notion of pop-up shops has been around forever, think traveling peddler, weekly farm markets or craft fairs it has morphed into a very cool branding phenomena. Retail stores set up cute pop-op shops to garner interest and grow awareness. Who doesn’t want to walk into an oversized Tiffany jewelry box or Nike shoebox and shop for a little something? Businesses that don’t have brick and mortar shops have the opportunity to build awareness through a pop-up shop. Some are free standing and plunked down somewhere and others make use of empty retail spaces.

Today in The Wall Street Journal blog “Brands Get Creative With Holiday Pop-Up Stores, Nathalie Tadena talks about the Glade (air freshener) pop-up which is selling “feelings” with its scents and the Velcro pop-up which has free gift wrapping with it’s product. If you want to see some other really cool pop-up shops check out the Retail Concepts and Pop-Up Stores Pinterest page.

Riverside’s very own arts center, which is always on the cutting edge of things, will be having a pop-up of its own this weekend. The RAC’s recently vacated storefront next to the Freeark Gallery will be hosting its second annual RAC The Halls Pop-Up Shop tomorrow, Friday, December 5th from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday, December 6th from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The event will be held in conjunction with the Riverside Holiday Stroll on December 5. One-of-a-kind handmade items will be available and a portion of all sales will benefit the Riverside Arts Center.

So stop by the RAC, buy some cool art and support your local arts center before it disappears…

Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and co-founder of and teacher with Doodle Art & Design. She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs: Rainbow, Sunshine and Thunderstorm. You can experience more about her at www.kathleenthometz.com

Kathleen Thometz

I am an artist, writer, and art instructor with four children, one husband, and two doodle-dogs. I have contributed articles to the mid.com and Chicago Parent Magazine and wrote the Artist's Eye column...