Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Jamie Carl and Susan Sun of Equation Boutique
Following a successful pop-up, Jamie Carl and Susan Sun decided to make it permanent, with Equation boutique.
There’s a reason retailers continue to “pop-up.” We show up. Whether it’s a pop-up boutique that lingers longer than many permanent stores end up lasting or a weekend pop-up sale that’s really just a garage sale with a fancy name—the label, overused as it has become, gets shoppers excited. We’re such simple creatures when you get right down to it. We respond to experiences that feel exclusive or at least fleeting.
Pop-up shops first became sexy when fashion brands started appearing in unexpected places—often raw, urban spaces. Stripping away the plush confines of a tony address seemed daring and novel. Now, the reverse is happening: independent neighborhood boutiques are popping up where you’d least expect them—at suburban malls.
And it’s working.
Minneapolis boutiques Primrose Park, Mona Williams, and Roe Wolfe recently teamed up with Shoppes at Arbor Lakes boutique Juniper for a pop-up clearance sale in an empty space at the Maple Grove center. They had a line outside the store on opening day—something that hasn’t ever happened at their permanent locations. Last month, Primrose Park owner Jennifer Carnahan coordinated a Spring Pop-Up Shop at Eden Prairie Center with several locally owned boutiques. They’re talking about bringing that concept back to Arbor Lakes this summer.
Seeing the buzz the boutique pop-up created caught the attention of Pottery Barn Kids. The national retailer, a fixture at Arbor Lakes since it opened, decided to turn its standard floor model sale into a pop-up, using a vacant space a few doors away. It’s funny when you think about it: move the sale out of the polished storefront, into a generic space, and shoppers take it more seriously.
For the malls, the benefit of these pop-ups is obvious: It keeps the lights on in an unrented space, and as Arbor Lakes marketing director Jennie Zafft says, allows the center to incubate potential tenants.
Mall of America has been hosting pop-ups since the days when they were simply known as temporary stores. Back then, most were mere kiosks in the middle of the corridors.
Now, pop-ups are more elaborate. Shoppers might not have even realized Creative Kidstuff and Uptown Minnesota (a gift store featuring local artisans that started at the airport) were holiday pop-ups at Mall of America, and no matter: both stayed, due to demand.
Ridgedale was able to fill a bevy of empty storefronts with pop-ups last year, many of which are interested in coming back this holiday season. However, general manager Joan Suko says they will find less availability once a major remodel is complete and the new Nordstrom is open.
Pop-ups are a lot like dating—fresh and exciting, but not built to last. That’s why Equation has settled into a permanent spot at 50th & France, after popping up in the neighborhood last fall and dancing around commitment through the holidays.
“It was great for us to test the response,” says Susan Sun, who was cautious about jumping into another permanent store after closing OPM boutique.
For Equation, she teamed up with former Target senior manager Jamie Carl to complement the women’s clothing with an assortment of gifts, accessories, and home accents. “The pop-up gave us time to make sure we worked well together,” Sun says. After Christmas, the two were ready to put a lease on it.
“We wanted a space we could really make our own,” Sun says. “And we wanted customers to know where to find us.”
Eventually, all that popping gets exhausting. To endure, you’ve got to settle in, and find other ways to keep the (retail) romance alive.