Pop-up shops let creators experiment

By Miranda Manier

Tanner Woodford, founder and executive director of the Chicago Design Museum, is all about “creating unexpected cultural experiences.”

The museum is extending this concept by way of the Chicago Design Market, a rotating series of pop-up shops that create the unexpected by placing small emerging artists alongside larger established businesses. 

The market, located next to the museum at Block 37, 108 N. State St., began in July and will run through December. Market patrons step off the escalator to encounter five cherry red storefronts, each announcing its current occupant. These occupants change monthly, adding up to 17 shops during the market’s six-month run.

“Lowering the barrier of entry” for artists to sell their work in a brick-and-mortar environment is an important objective for the market, according to Woodford.

Shops are not charged for utilities and do not pay a fixed monthly rent; instead, the museum takes a sales commission, Woodford said. This allows small designers or businesses, such as Aviate Press Shop, to market in a retail space, while allowing larger establishments, such as Cards Against Humanity, to experiment with both the space and their business model, he added. 

Aviate Press Shop—which opened Aug. 1 and closes at the end of September—is an online paper goods retailer in Nashville, Tennessee. Ava Puckett, the store’s founder, relocated to Chicago for its two-month run in the market, taking a break from her full-time job with Nashville’s Merch Cave.

“[The Chicago Design Market] sounded like a really good way to see what it was like to do this full time,” Puckett said. 

Having  a physical retail space gave Puckett the chance to play with merchandising and gauge reactions to her products—opportunities Puckett does not have with her online sales, she said. 

Cards Against Humanity will be participating in the market October through December. Like Aviate Press Shop, it is also looking to provide “a unique experience that [could only be given] in a physical space,” said Lauren Gallagher, the company’s lead designer.

“A lot of our marketing and presence as a company is online, so we wanted to make a space that’s cozy, inviting, and offers products that aren’t available online,” Gallagher said. 

The Cards Against Humanity pop-up will have an area for guests to sit and read or play games, away from the overwhelming atmosphere of shopping malls, Gallagher said. 

“[The Chicago Design Museum’s] mission is to strengthen design culture and build community,” Woodford said, adding that the creators rotating through the market “absolutely meet [that] mission.” 

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