After tweeting back and forth for an appointment, finally I met Caroline de Jager via Skype. Caroline is a very active entrepreneur who has been one of the earliest temporary shop (pop-up shop) initiators in Amsterdam, and then initiator of online matchmaking service for vacant properties and popup initiatives (popupsqure).
Besides these, she is now very involved in adaptive reuse of vacant urban properties, such as the latest initiative, BetaHuis in Heerlen.
Below is the story particularly on the hands-on experience she shared with me about operating temporary shops.
Few years back when Pop-up Shop (=temporary shop) not yet a buzz word in Amsterdam, Caroline had already the idea to start up a temporary shop. ‘I simply wanted to own a retail shop without mortgage, and to invest as little as possible. So take a vacant shop space and run a temporary store became the most logical choice’, she said. It was also the changing moment in the real estate market when the demand of retailers started to shift from larger spaces to smaller spaces.
Exterior of Gravenstraat 12
To launch a Pop-up shop is actually more about being an activist than having the idea. ‘My friend and I started to bike around the city, looking for a vacant storefront. If we found an interesting property, we would immediately approach the property owner and tried to promote our idea with a mood-board’. You also have to be blunt and stay flexible. Their strategy is: ‘We don’t want to pay you (property owner), but we would leave immediately as soon as you find your tenant’. Sometimes they spent endless calls and visits to catch the property owner, but usually the owners agreed and sometime even gave the key immediately. Caroline explained to me still with great enthusiasm about one of their Pop-up stores, located at Gravenstraat Amsterdam. ‘That was a fabulous storefront and location, where we were told to stay for 3 weeks but eventually extended to 6 months. Our temporary shop has definitely attracted more potential tenants, so the property owner was very pleased with us.’
"We don't pay you, but we will leave immediately after you find the tenant"
"Interior? Keep it simple because you don't know when you need to leave"
"Cardboard is a versatile & low-budget material to use for temporary store"
Concerning the restrictions of urban regulation, it seems that launching a Pop-up shop is much easier than we could imagine. When you are running a temporary retail store in a space that is designated as a retail space, then there’s not much to worry about. Then, I had to think about one of the events that I tried to launch in a retail space. At that time I proposed an event with cooking related activity in a forgotten Chinese shopping mall – catering in retail space – which brings up more conflicts with the urban regulations.
What makes me really interested in these temporary uses of space, is about being in between the informal model (squatting / occupying illegally vacant spaces) and the formal model (signing contract / paying legally as a tenant), being able to subvert the vacant urban properties and testing the market. But don’t forget – people still keep throwing and attending parties, markets, garage sales, auctions…besides, there are plenty of pop-ups as corporate marketing tool.
So what are the tips and lessons to make a genuine pop-up store? Perhaps it’s important to amplify the effects – effects on the location and on the vacant property – that your shop will create. Turning vacancy into a new possibility #subverting #re-inventing #being activist
Ready to start up your own pop-up? Get Caroline de Jager’s ‘Handbook: How to open a pop-up store’ by mailing to email@example.com