First came the “pop-up” concept – stores and restaurants in a temporary spot. Then the more ambitious Popuphood launched in Oakland, California in December 2011, redesigning a city block to become a shopping destination. Although founders Sarah Filley and Alfonso Dominguez wanted to use the pop-up model to fill perpetually vacant storefronts in Old Oakland, what they achieved is permanent. With city and private funding, they renovated five architecturally magnificent storefronts and filled them with pre-screened indie retailers, all of whom get free rent for six months to see if they can make a go of it; the retailers also band together, incubator-style, to share ideas. Plus, Filley says, having five stores in a concentrated area is better than a single retailer trying to bring foot traffic. Popuphood turned Old Oakland’s 9th Street between Clay Street and Broadway into a hub. Now, you can shop and eat in this row of buildings with a rich history dating back to the 1860s, one of which was a home to dancer Isadora Duncan until she moved to France.
Transitioning from digital to physical, before Umami Mart became old-school bricks and mortar, it was a popular blog. With the opportunity of Popuphood, owners Yoko Kumano and Kayoko Akabori were able to attract a loyal following in real life, too.
At Umami Mart, barware and kitchenware from Japan are arranged as artfully as if in a museum. Stirring spoons and shakers are laid out like jewels. It carries porcelain Sabisensuji teapots by famed Hakusan designer Masahiro Mori, and gold cocktail shakers. Their success has led to a second store in San Francisco.
Umami Mart, 815 Broadway, Oakland, Calif.
Owner Kerri Lee Johnson of Marion & Rose’s Workshop stocks her airy store with well-made crafts manufactured in the United States. For example, Faribault wool blankets, which have been made in Minnesota since 1865. Prices are reasonable, mostly under $100, for these pretty pieces that make great gifts, from dish towels screen-printed with Bay Area emblems to Faribault wool iPad covers.
Marion & Rose’s Workshop, 461 9th St., Oakland, Calif.
Alas for air travellers, Sobu is filled with mostly oversized items not suitable for carry on: eclectic modern furniture designed by co-owner Alessandro Latini and made in India of reclaimed and sustainable woods. Refurbished retro Indian bikes are a hot ticket item right now, and so are the patchwork lounge chairs. Sobu joined Popuphood in late 2013.
Sobu, 465 9th St., Oakland, Calif.
The FloraCultural Society isn’t your ordinary florist. First off, their motto is “Rewild your Life” with the hope that they’ll introduce people to where flowers come from and how they are used in everyday things. In that vein, owner and horticulturist Anna Campbell stocks botanical soaps, other plant-based tchotchkes and offers classes, specializing in rare and heirloom varieties (mostly pre-1920s). There’s a loom in the back and a flower farm is set to open a couple of blocks away.
FloraCultural Society, 461A 9th St., Oakland, Calif.
Jeweller and Popuphood alum Kate Ellen has opened to a permanent space down the block due to her success with the program. At Crown Nine, she sells her jewellery, made from recycled metals, and also carries jewellery from other indie designers. When she opened three years ago, Ellen says Old Oakland was “sleepy and dead.”
Now it’s so not. New restaurants, shops and bars have lit up the historic buildings. The most vital day to visit, she says, is Friday when the Farmers' Market is in full swing.
Other versions of the Popuphood have been adopted by other cities, including Chicago and Chattanooga.
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Have you been to Popuphood? What do you think of “pop-up” stores? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Written Christine Ciarmello
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About the author: ChristineCChristine Ciarmello
A San Francisco-based freelancer and now fog aficionado, Christine Ciarmello was editor-in-chief of Islands, then deputy editor of one of the largest circ lifestyle magazines, Sunset, where she created the culture blog Westphoria. She left her hometown of New Orleans after a nearly lifetime stint, three hurricane evacuations, and too much seafood gumbo. She covers the hedonistic sports of traveling, eating, drinking, and design-hunting. Places that require a ferry to get there, plus modern-vintage hotels and the tropics are her weaknesses. cciarm.com