Short-term storefronts can be mutually beneficial

DANSVILLE — Dansville Chamber of Commerce hosted a revitalization program this week at Battle Street Brewery to talk about the possibility of Pop Up Shops downtown.

Nicole Alioto, owner of Alla Breve Educational Consulting, facilitated the program with her ideas about how to bring these shops to Dansville's historic Main Street.

There were several steps discussed at the meeting on July 29 — the idea of economic development, sparking interest in local businesses to consider a Pop Up Shop, discovering how many property owners would be willing to lease spaces, and getting people to come off the thruway and shop on Main Street.

“We have a lot of empty storefronts in Dansville. It is hard to get retailers to take a risk if they can’t envision what it will look like. We have some that have beaten the odds like Dogwood Trading Company. Mill Creek Optical and Dogwood Floral are some great shops we have on Main Street too. We need to figure out how to get people to come off the exits, and get them to spend money in our town,” Alioto said. “There are models out there showing how this has been done in other smaller and larger towns. It shows how a personal touch of small business can expand. We want people to explore our town and find ways to stay in Dansville.”

Alioto gave the example of the Dansville ArtWorks. It had a small start as a Pop Up Shop in 2013. Now after five years it has become a growing art center with lots of positive feedback from the community and out-of-townspeople.

“We did the Pop Up experience for a month, and it was a way for us to get feedback from the community. A Pop Up Shop is an accessible way to test an investment in a business before making a larger investment. We started with a small space and had a lot of commitment from local artists. We had 15 artists get involved at the time. In a short amount of time we made a $1,000 investment,” she said. “We have grown and grown since then. We have several artists from all over. We have Open Mic Nights. We have a gift shop. We now have a solo exhibit in the old space. We have come full circle from where we were in the Pop Up Shop.”

Alioto added that there are many large and small communities doing this concept all over the country.

“There is a section in Memphis that went from doing a Pop Up Shop to making them all long term businesses. We want to create something they will all remember. Wisconsin does this concept in the holiday seasons. There are multiple storefronts with four or more Pop Up Shops. They use a lot of marketing techniques to talk about the program, and bring in old and new businesses,” Alioto said. “Someone may have a business out of their home, or a business they are doing online, or working on a retail brand they want to expand, and this way they can make it more visible to the public. It is a hard jump to make in a year lease, but this way they only have a couple months to try it out.”

Alioto added the Pop Up Shop idea is for retail shop owners who don’t have a nest egg or want feedback from the community before they make a giant leap.

“I like the idea that the storefront is like a way to showcase your business. It is like having your own stage for a couple of months. Local property owners can have a couple months’ rent from the Pop Up Shops, and fill some empty space in their stores. This is a way to boost economic development in Dansville,” she said.

Alioto mentioned if this program was to take place the businesses would need to be in the storefronts by Nov. 1 and be open by Nov. 15 for the Holiday Season. The idea is to have the Pop Up Shops in prime shopping season. They would need to be out of the storefronts by Dec. 31.

An agreement would need to be made between the property owner and Pop Up Shop on the two month lease. The idea is to make this more long term, and bring more business of this kind to the area. Dansville Historical Society would be interested in doing historical exhibits at each storefront, and leaving them there when the Pop Up Shops are no longer around. There was talk about doing more than just retail type stores in this program. Also, some like the idea of a winter farmers’ market.

Alioto plans to talk to the downtown storefront owners to see who would be interested in leasing for Pop Up Shops. There will be more meetings in the near future on this concept.