Pop-up stores have not started to proliferate in Powell River, but short-term retail stores that open for a day or week, here today and gone tomorrow, could contribute to the revitalization of Marine Avenue and other high-traffic areas in the city.
According to small business owners, their representatives and realtors, landlords’ willingness to lease short-term spaces is one issue standing in the way.
“There’s a growing need for space for temporary pop-up stores,” said Linda Wegner, small business representative on Powell River Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.
Pop-ups first started springing up around the turn of the century as temporary shopping stops for the younger market demographic. In fact, the idea that gave rise to the pop-up, a term coined in 1997, was described as an “ultimate hipster mall.”
Temporary stores are often used to sell seasonal products, such as costumes and decorations for Halloween, Christmas and other holiday occasions. In Powell River, only a few have “popped up,” because short-term leases are, according Wegner, too hard to find.
“If there was storefront space available for short-term leases, the small business wouldn’t have to lease a building for a whole year, but two or three months at a time or even monthly, so they could be more exposed to the community,” she said.
That was the experience Elaine Steiger had when she opened her pop-up store, The Nutcracker, last year.
“I had a really difficult time finding space when I wanted to open up the store,” said Steiger. “I even had two real estate agents looking and they received the same answer.”
The answer from landlords, said Steiger, was no.
“Landlords wanted full-time, long-term leases and those places are still empty,” she said.
Local real estate agent Ross Cooper said he is perplexed about there being a large inventory of commercial space, but finding landlords willing to lease for a pop-up are few and far between.
“Traditionally, in the commercial-leasing business, they feel that perhaps they’re going to miss out on an opportunity,” said Cooper. “My experience is that people who have commercial space are not willing to give up a month of it and pay expenses for someone occupying a month.”
According to Cooper, larger players in commercial real estate, “find that an income of 30 days is just not enough for them to look at it.”
However, taking a chance on a pop-up store could lead to the long-term lease the landlord is after, which is what Steiger said she hopes will happen with The Nutcracker, a hybrid of the pop-up.
Rather than just one retailer using the store, several share the co-operative space, selling specialty items, imported clothing, artisan breads and baking.
Another pop-up waiting to move into a permanent space is 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters, currently located in the old Bank of Montreal building in Townsite.
A pop-up store is a place where its entrepreneur can do market, product and location testing and possibly lead to starting a low-cost-model permanent business. Relish Interiors on Marine Avenue started as a pop-up store.
“The intention was that I was only going to be here for three months and that was four years ago,” said owner Leah Rourke. “I opened the last week of October intending to close at Christmas.”
It is unlikely, however, that pop-ups will pop up like whack-a-moles at a midway or amusement park.
“It’s not without its own challenges,” said Rourke, “because you have a very short time to get word out to the community who you are, what you are and where you are, before you’re gone.”