What’s next after boxXshop 2013?

BoxXshop 2013 by onahazymorning.com

BIG THANKS to all the boxxshoppers, especially for those who helped to build it up and down!
I couldn’t imagine that boxxshop would happen again this year, until Eliane jumped out to help organizing the event. This year, all the boxes looked really beautiful and charming, and I hope you all had a good time meeting people besides selling.

Every year after the event, I always had lots of reflections. When boxxshop was first launched in 2011, this small scale, handmade xmas market was still quite unique, offering products that people can’t find in the normal markets (you can also watch this short video about our original idea). In shortly two years, ‘creative markets’ have become a hype and online shops were also fast growing stimulated by the online marketplaces, such as Etsy. With so many xmas markets popping up every year, what else can we offer to people then just selling products?

I think these days people don’t want to be ‘the consumers’ only. Facts show that more and more people are actively involving in the production process; it happened in the food industry as well as in the design industry. If I may fantasize about the next event, it would focus more on the ‘process of making’ rather than the ‘end product’. This is what interests me most in all my projects, to connect people back to the production process so we can together shape the future economy!!

And you? What is your say about boxxshop? Tell me more about your idea, or simply leave a comment here.

(Thank you On a Hazy Morning for your lovely photos!)

(Thank you Marieke van den Boogaard for your lovely iphone photos!)


From a vacant restaurant to a pop-up ice cream bar

Isn’t it great if you can make a small business you’ve always wanted to make, without the big investors, long-term leases and designed interior? How about being a temporary owner of a vacant restaurant and testing your new business for 6 months?

Around the corner of our street, an entire building block is announced to be demolished. A Chinese restaurant has left a while ago, leaving a dark-, empty space. Few weeks ago, I noticed that something started to happen – the space has been cleaned; white paint has washed the wall. Soon after, a flyer arrived to announce the opening of the ice cream bar.

In just few weeks, the ice cream bar opened its door, transformed the vacant restaurant space and is now successfully seducing the curious crowd. So who is behind it and what has made this pop-up bar work?

‘I wanted to start my own business and happened to see this vacant space’, said Roos – the owner and the young entrepreneur of this temporary ice cream bar. ‘Nobody knows when this building block will be demolished, so I simply seize the chance to start up my business’.  As a temporary owner of the space, Roos had to appropriate the restaurant space in order to keep the investment low, and to furnish the space as soon as possible since there is only a temporary lease. This improvising character actually makes her space very inviting to the by-passers. People feel very comfortable to step in and to chat with Roos. ‘Yes, that’s also what I intend to create – to make people feel like home’.

Now you can easily get a ball of ice cream plus a cup of coffee together for less than 3 euro (these days, a cup of coffee in Amsterdam already costs you 3 euro). Customers start to improvise the service together with Roos. ‘Requests called in for kids birthday parties. So I’ve initiated workshops to make some crafts and ice cream together with the kids, for example.

While having an ice cream at Roos’ bar, I heard people chatting and fancying to see more this kind of temporary initiatives in Amsterdam. Temporary stores prove to attract attention which helps to draw potential future tenants, but still many storefronts in the city are left vacant. I wonder if there could be a new kind of match-make platform that helps starter entrepreneurs to nest in vacant properties (for example, popupsquare)? It should be a different one from the current retail property’s website: it should be able to match small-scale initiatives to urban niche spaces and to obtain the temporary permit [1] more easily.

According to Roos, it’s really difficult to acquire a commercial property to run a temporary bar / restaurant in Amsterdam. ‘I am really luck to have this chance. All the commercial properties are simply too expansive for starters‘, said Roos. I hope Roos could continue serving her cost-friendly ice cream and could benefit from this temporary initiative which might be the stepping stone for her future ice cream business [2].

[1] In Amsterdam, a temporary (pop-up) bar/or restaurant needs a temporary lease as well as a catering permit (in Dutch: horecavergunningen) which costs quite some bucks to obtain.
[2] Station Roos will stay at this location til January 2013, and will serve various food such as lunch and warm snacks in winter time. You can keep track with her activities at www.stationroos.nl

10 examples of Collaborative Store in Amsterdam

What is a Collaborative Store?
Imagine it’s like an online marketplace (e.g. etsy) translated into a bricks-and-mortar store. This is a perfect model for micro entrepreneurs – craftspeople, designers, independent musicians, inventors, food makers – who can collectively create the maximum visibility with just little investment.

Endossa is an interesting example in Sao Paulo which has defined their store as:

a shop where people choose what it sells. It´s a translation of many concepts behind web 2.0 into a bricks-and-mortar store. A platform where content (products) gets ranked and filtered by users (consumers).

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There are some basic strategies in running a Collaborative Store:

Open marketplace: rather than selecting vendors, the store is available to almost every product. It’s a user-generated selection process meaning eventually unique and creative products will be endorsed by the customers.
Micro-investment: usually a small amount of fee is charged without sales commission.
Shops-within-a-shop: micro-retail-space such as shelf / boxes are made available for rent. In some other cases, a shop space is collaboratively run by multiple tenants.
Temporary lease: leasing a shop space for a short period of time – for a day, a weekend or a month.
Mixed Use: mixing different types of activities in one space – retailing, workshops, performance, food & beverage, beauty salon…etc.

Collaborative Store is not yet very common in Amsterdam and other cities in the Netherlands, but there is certainly a growing interest in this niche. Below I’ve sampled 10 initiatives in Amsterdam based on the above mentioned strategies. Hope this list will inspire more initiatives and help micro entrepreneurs to find start-up spaces and to collaborate.

1. The New Label Project (Rozengracht 75) is probably the first initiative in Amsterdam that realized the concept of Shelf (box) Rental Store. The shop space is carefully designed with different sizes of boxes which can be rented by various types designers & makers.

2. Open Shop Amsterdam (nieuwezijds voorburgwal 291) is a shop collaboratively run by several Dutch fashion designers. Since 2003, various Dutch starter designers have joined this initiative before they become independent.

3. One Day Shop (Haarlemmerdijk 41) offers an empty retail space where various retailers can rent for 1-3 days.

4. Mini Shopping center of cool (Amstel 180) is a mini retail store that offers various sizes of spaces and temporary rental possibilities.

5. Charlie & Mary (Gerard Doustraat 84) is a cafe-in-a-retail-shop collaboratively run by Beter & Leuk café and Charlie & Mary fashion store. Actually Beter & Leuk (Eerste Oosterparkstraat 91) has another café which also offers micro spaces for rent for design and crafts.

6. The Novel Swap Shop (Ernest Staesstraat 7) is a meeting place for free clothes-swap, coffee and cake. It is a part of the Bookstore project, a social initiative offering artists-in-residence with affordable living-working spaces. Want to launch an event here? Why not join their clothes-swap day, chat with the artists with free coffee and cake, and talk about future collaboration possibilities…

7. Depot BG (Tolstraat 137) is a project space initiated by several creative offices who are temporarily leasing the building of former city archives of Amsterdam. In the past, Depot BG has hosted various events including film, exhibition, pop-up dinner…and its door is always open for new ideas & collaborations.

8. Bar22 (Wolvenstraat 22-24) offers its space to host various events: for example, an online retailer ThinksILIKEThinkILOVE has launched an evening pop-up shop here, creating an interesting atmosphere of vintage shopping party.

9. One Day Shop HTNK (Wibautstraat 127) is an annual fashion event that offers a platform for designer labels, photographers, illustrators as well as accessories designers. The participants have been growing into more than 50 vendors for the last event. It takes place at Club Trouw, where music, food and fashion together create an exclusive fashion marketplace & party.

10. Ultra de la Rue (Oudekerksplein 30) is a fairly new initiative in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. A group of artists and designers are temporarily leasing the space, creating a mixed use space as gallery, café bar and store. The space is located at a fantastic central location with a little taste of history and eroticism. Why not grab a coffee chat and brainstorm collaborative events with Ultra de la Rue?


Want to share more examples of Collaborative Store? Please feel free to leave a comment or pin your example at our Pinterest board of Collaborative Store.

Pop-up! Creative use of niche spaces #2

In 2011, I have posted an article with the same title. Together with another article Rent A Shelf and start up a collaborative pop-up shop, they were the most visited posts last year. In 2012, I’d like to look at the term Pop-up not only from the trendy retailing examples but also those improvisational, informal and temporary cases spotted in Taiwan.

////// case one ////// sharing shop spaces or occupying pedestrian area //////
In Taiwanese urban context, sharing spaces is actually triggered by many private shop renters who use the space to make extra profit. Imagine a retail shop owner who rents a space for 1000 euro/ month, and then share the shop space with other two sub-renters who pay 500 euro/ month each. In this way, they share the initial investment & risks, and could possibly attract more customers.

In Taipei: two food vendors share one storefront.

The idea to generate more income is so attractive that many shop renters even claim the pedestrian zone and rent them to other street food venders. In the picture below you can see: the shop owner has moved out to become the street vendor (where the red arrow is pointing), in order to rent the storefront to another shop. He even rents out the pedestrian zone to another street food vender.

You can see the shop owner occupies the left corner outside of the storefront, and another food vender rents the pedestrian zone in front of the shop.

Occupy the pedestrian zone.

In the picture above, you can see the owner of the convenient store (which opens 24 hours) has also rented the pedestrian zone to other vendors during the day.

The above mentioned examples actually get media attention only when they are being spotted as illegal business, and are considered as planning defect. Though on the other hand, they have created shared value by intensifying the use of the space.

////// case two ////// pop-up sales and temporary stores in vacant spaces ////////
Far before Pop-up has become a trend, there were already temporary shops filling up the vacant retail stores in the cities. This kind of pop-up stores, or temporary outlets were emerged out of an economic situation: in the time of bad economy, retailers could save money on interior decoration and quickly clear their stock; property owners could profit from short-term tenants rather than leaving the space vacant.

Picture source: urbanphoto.net, by K.Y. Cheng

One of Urbanphoto’s article, Temporary Stores Thrive as Others Fade, has looked at this kind of temporary shops in the context of Hong Kong:

“Since many retailers signed contracts at the top of the market one or two years ago, rents remain high and so does the potential for bankruptcy. When shops go out of business, landlords are faced with a few options: bide their time by keeping the space empty, slash rents, or play host to a temporary store that will help them cover costs until they find a new permanent tenant.”

////// case 3 ////// social selling and the collaborative shop //////
A recent article in The Pop-up city has mentioned Social Selling, predicting that it will become a growing trend in 2012. In Taiwan, social selling or in another word collaborative shop, has been always a reality. Just around the corner of my parents’ apartment in Taipei, I’ve spotted a tea shop (1m x 1m space) nested in a bike store.

For a start-up business, a small-, affordable- space at a prominent location is all that it needs. For many online business, renting a small space together with others as a show point or just popping up at various locations – seem to be more effective than occupying a big high-street storefront. It’s exciting to see this happening in world-wide cities – private initiatives and non-profit organizations are starting to share retail, working or restaurant spaces. By making the spaces more shareable for multiple, mixed or temporary use, the value of spaces can thus be intensified and multiplied.

In my next post, I’ll share some international cases where collaborative shops are created with more social or non-for-profit approaches.

Ending note: I’d like to thank Boundary Unlimited who has inspired me a lot about Asian informal urban development and brought my interest back to my own Taiwanese urban experience.

The nest of The Mouse Mansion (Het Muizenhuis)

I’d love to share this winter wonder with you for this specific moment of the year.
It was an year ago, around the same period of Christmas holidays, that this installation The Mouse Mansion (Het Muizenhuis) popped up in the window of my neighbor’s house. Its surprising presence has surely created a new attraction in my neighborhood. Everyday curious crowds hung in front of the window; kids especially excitedly stuck their faces on the glass and crawled up and down of their parents in order to see every corner of this miniature house.

Well, the surprise is not just for the kids. I was also amazed after giving it a close look – these mice poppets, the miniature house, the furnishing of the house, the bathroom fixtures and the kitchenware…etc., every detail of this miniature house is crafted all by an artist,

The making of:
From the picture above, you can see that these water vases are actually made of paper!

An impression on the structure of the house before we get closer to look into the rooms…

The wall paper and all those blankets on the shelves…

The candle holder on the wall (right side)…

The tiles in the bathroom, the weighter, and the garbage bag next to the trash can…

The lady’s corner…

Bakery and the delicatessen…of course, the bycicle! These are mice in the Netherlands!

This is my favorite, Oliebollen street vendor – Oliebollen is a bit like donuts (fried dough) a traditional Dutch treat for December.

This window is located at Weesperzijde adjacent to the river Amstel. There are some café restaurants next to it. Beyond the event days, it’s just a domestic / and transit route. During the month when The Mouse Mansion was nested, the anonymous window has created a new point of interest. Since then, I see more often that these kind of temporary window gallery popping up in my neighborhood.

Though this year, The Mouse Mansion has found a permanent nest at OBA (Amsterdam Public Library), so I’m not able to say hello to these mice everyday anymore.

Now this book is lying everywhere in the bookstores in Amsterdam, and of course now it’s also in my book shelf. Though The Mouse Mansion will not come back to my neighbor’s window, I’ll have a cozy winter with the book accompany me.

Check the official blog of The Mouse Mansion / Het Muizenhuis.
http://the-mouse-mansion.blogspot.com (in English)
http://hetmuizenhuis.blogspot.com (in Dutch)

Pop-up shop manual by Caroline de Jager

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 info@popupsquare.nl

Pop-up! Creative use of urban niche spaces

With this post, I hope to give an impression on the current trend of pop-up initiatives who turn urban niche spaces into temporary attractions. Here you can find international initiatives that take ‘nomadic’ as a strategy (such as Comme des Garçons). You can also discover projects that initiate time-share to intensify the use of space (such as Mission Chinese Food). It is worth-noting that many of them rely with social media (twitter, facebook, RSS…) which keeps their followers/ fans updated about the next surprising event/ location.

////////// Nomadic //////////

Comme des Garçons is the pioneering example of pop-up shops. Launched at unremarkable locations in Berlin/ Glasgow/ Reykjavik/ Helsinki/ Singapore and just to name a few – it has attracted curious crowds by the fusion of high-end fashion brand and the low-tech interior space. The picture above shows a recent pop-up store in Warsaw that has transformed a former fruit and vegetable store in to a temporary retail shop.

Henrik Vibskov – the danish designer launched ‘The 100 days store’ in SPRMRKT Amsterdam, as the first stop for his traveling fashion show/ retail store. Traveling around the major European capitals, each store will be an experiment with spaces and installations. Here you can find an interview about the designer and his initiative.

Continue reading

Recycle second-hand retail spaces

I found it fantastic that there are all kinds of online/ offline marketplaces helping us to get second-hand furniture, cars, baby stuff and clothes. These platforms encourage consumers to sell, buy or swap ‘used goods’, which goes along with our sustainable life mission.

So how about recycling retail spaces? Especially those fashion stores, who usually spend much efforts on creating exclusive interior to lure the consumers. Behalf all the investments, fashion stores have usually a short life. The retailers pop-up and then disappear, leaving some furnished vacant storefronts in our city.

image source: http://www.iwan.com

I used to look into this shoe shop, Jan Jansen, an exclusive designer brand with elaborated interior. It’s a beautiful shop at a prominent location, though I don’t know how many people could afford this exclusivity and have actually stepped in. Before I made a decision to enter it, the store has already closed down leaving the interior with vacant red shelves.

What a pity. Several times I thought about contacting the owner of the space, and organizing an indoor crafty market to re-use this storefront. It’ll be so great to see this space being used and occupied by the crowds. But the task is to convince the owner with a plan that has little budget. Before I could take action all the red shelves were taken out of the wall and the red interior has turned white.


The red interior has been removed.

I am probably not the only one. There must be many entrepreneurs fantasizing to temporarily use these kind of spaces – to be the second-hand users before the new retailer comes and demolishes everything.

Would it help, I thought, to develop an online marketplace to recycle vacant retail spaces to second-hand users? This can facilitate the communication between the individual amateurish initiatives and the real estate agencies. The two parties can connect to each other more easily and come up with a win-win solution. This could help us to be more involved in a sustainable urban environment, besides recycling personal belongings.

Second-hand retail space. For our pocket and for our city.

Pictures from Chapan Mart

On December 19, 2010, that freezing Sunday afternoon when most of the roads are covered with white snow and many public transports gave up running, many people have made their effort to our mini Christmas market.

We want to thank the artists & participants – Bea van den Berg, Marco, Masaaki Oyamada and Uno Fujisawa in Chapan Mart, who worked hard to serve the guests with snacks, drinks, games and art. We also want to thank Amanda Yiu, the owner of Formocha, who hosted the event with delicious Chinese tea.

Amanda has two store fronts: one side is used as a barber shop. Uno and Masaaki have taken this space during the event.

The other side is used as the Formocha tea gallery, Amanda, Marco & Bea have taken this space.

Click the pictures to see more on Flickr.