Sewickley business owners embrace pop-ups

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Pop-up stores have been cropping up more in recent years in Sewickley, but some merchants doubt the trend will continue.

Alexis Comunale, owner of Jewel Thief in Nickelodeon Mall and a Sewickley Valley Chamber of Commerce board member, said vacant storefronts are beginning to fill, some of which had held pop-ups.

“There are going to be few spaces left for pop-ups,” she said.

Village Green Partners co-founder Jennifer Markus said 17 stores opened this year. One has since closed, she said.

Salúd Juicery at 348 Beaver St. and Après at 422 Broad St. are in locations occupied by pop-ups in the past, for example.

Still, the temporary stores have helped the business district, some merchants say.

“They bring people from other cities into town, especially if the businesses have a large customer base like Emy Mack Shoes,” Comunale said.

Liza Christ of Edgeworth runs the Emy Mack pop-up at 501 Beaver St., which she operated full-time for a week, until last Sunday, and now part-time until owners permanently rent the former Mellon Bank space.

“I had two women come in here from Fox Chapel who were at Emy Mack Shoes,” Comunale said. “They wouldn't have been here if it wasn't for that pop-up store,”

Christ said the pop-up stores, which Emy Mack opens all over the country, help to broaden the customer base. Emy Mack has a showroom in Shadyside.

Jess Hogan of Robinson, who stopped by Emy Mack, said it is exciting to see new pop-up stores in the area.

“When the storefronts are empty, it's sad,” she said.

This is the store's second pop-up in Sewickley. The first operated for two weeks in the summer at 430 Beaver St., now occupied by Lex & Lynne, which sells crafted women's accessories.

Comunale said pop-ups are nice for business owners who want to test a market before renting on a more permanent basis.

However, Lisa Unis, owner of Carly M, Fine Jewelry, said pop-ups that open during the holiday season don't get an accurate representation of what sales will be like the rest of the year.

Another pop-up, Zoe's Art at 613 Beaver St., will close this week, when owner D. Zoe Shutka goes to Florida. But she said she plans to open another pop-up in Sewickley, if possible, when she returns.

“I would do this again and again and again. It's been fantastic,” she said.

She said she first popped into the space for the town's fall gallery walk, and Markus, who owns the space, permitted her to stay for awhile.

Shutka, an artist for 27 years who grew up in Sewickley, has shown and sold her students' work, artwork from professional artist friends and her own work and held classes and events in the space.

Pieces include fine art,jewelry, artistically restored furniture and antiques.

She and Christ said other retailers in the area have been supportive, and Shutka purchased some cabinet doors from Vescio Cabinets next door to turn into pieces of art.

Shutka said she would like to locate her business permanently in the Sewickley Village, if she could find a space with affordable rent.

Alex DeLoia, social media strategist for Village Green Partners, said the agency sometimes is able to find spaces for pop-up business owners.

Unis said some landlords will not rent to pop-ups unless they sign a lease.

She and Comunale said they enjoy seeing storefronts occupied, but prefer businesses that plan to stay.

“We want everyone to be a part of the community and make a commitment here,” Comunale said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 .

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