Archive | December, 2011

Smart Solutions to Empty Storefronts Popping Up in Colorado

8 Dec

Transforming Stagnant Spaces into Lively Places

In this current economy, it is not surprising to see vacant storefronts appear in Colorado communities of all sizes. But, what does surprise us is that the community and property owners let that storefront sit empty when there is an easy solution that benefits everyone: filling the space with a pop-up business.

There is no good reason to let empty storefronts remain empty. They create a stagnant space in what could otherwise be a lively contribution to a thriving commercial district. In fact, at many a technical assistance visit, DCI’s team of expert consultants has recommended a community fill its empty spaces with temporary installations otherwise known as “pop-up businesses.”  

What Is a Pop-up Business?

A pop-up business or store is created when an empty storefront temporarily houses a business for the benefit of both the property owner and the business owner. It is a fantastic solution to livening up those empty retail spaces and it is becoming popular across the country. In fact, pop-up stores are not the only businesses that are popping up these days…pop-up restaurants, pop-up food trucks, even pop-up bars are sprouting in communities across the country.  

Why Should You Consider a Pop-up? Now more than ever, when economic resources are at their thinnest, collaboration is key for the survival of any community. By utilizing a pop-up model for empty retail spaces, everyone is a winner!

  • Property owners: A pop-up business “sells” your space for you. A pop-up store can do for a retail space what home staging does for a house for sale—highlight the potential and encourage a business owner to picture themselves and their customers in the space. Think about it…if you were confronted with two potential retail spaces, one sitting dark, empty, and dusty, and one that was brimming with patrons and life, which one would you choose?
  • Potential business owners: A pop-up business allows you to “test the waters.” Whether a home-based business is considering a permanent move to a retail space or an entrepreneur wants to test out a new product, a pop-up space allows one to leap into the entrepreneurial pool without the risks of a permanent investment. It can provide the valuable information necessary to decide whether a business model needs to be tweaked or if you need to head into another direction all together.
  • Surrounding business owners: A pop-up business helps to encourage a lively commercial district. A vacant storefront can drag down the entire commercial district. But, filling this space with a temporary business will add to the vitality and encourage more business for everyone. After all, people attract more people…the more customers that are out and about in your district, the more intriguing the district will appear to others. Plus, encouraging business owners to test the waters and tweak their business model can eliminate a string of failed businesses, which can negatively impact the entire district.  
  • Community at large: A busy, attractive commercial district with no stagnant spaces provides a safe and lively environment, which benefits residents and visitors alike.

How Can a Pop-up Store Be Used?

Now that you’re convinced that you should never let a retail space sit empty, perhaps you’re wondering how to fill it? Here are some ideas from Colorado communities around the state that may provide you with a little inspiration.

1)  Create a temporary art gallery: Give local artists the chance to showcase their work. This could be as simple as displaying their artwork on the wall or as involved as creating an artist collaborative for artwork to be sold.  

Colorado example: I Heart Denver (located in the 16th Street Mall Pavilions Denver, Colorado) provides a locale for local artists and designers to sell their wares. The space supports “shopping local,” and artists collect 70 percent of all they sell.

2) Help a home-based business transition to retail: Entrepreneurs with a home-based business or new idea can safely test the waters without the usual risks. A temporary business allows entrepreneurs to work out the kinks and decide if a storefront is the best option.

Colorado example: Following up on a recommendation from a DCI technical assistance visit, Cedaredge, a small town of just over 2,000 in Delta County, utilized an empty storefront in the commercial district to bring in local home-based businesses to display and sell their products.

3) Engage the local community youth: Communities can encourage local youth to have pride in their community by encouraging research projects on the local history that culminates in an open house. Or provide students with the opportunity to have their own gallery, displaying artwork for the community to visit and admire. Bonus: proud parents who come to support their kids will create instant foot traffic. Colorado example: In 2007, Eads was awarded a Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence for the high school students’ creation of “Sample Town.” These amazing students spent months researching viable businesses and assembling business plans for the empty retail spaces in Eads. The plans were unveiled to the public when the students each spent a day manning the empty storefronts and sharing their entrepreneurial visions with visitors.   

Need more inspiration? For more ideas of pop-up examples across the country, visit