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Pop-up shops fill in the blank storefronts

Houseware stores are among the retailers setting up temporary spots in vacated storefronts.

November 28, 2009|By Alexandria Abramian Mott

With so many stores closing and retail spaces going empty, the concept of a so-called pop-up shop -- a temporary boutique in an otherwise unoccupied storefront -- has found fertile ground wherever "vacant" signs abound.

Fashion boutiques such as the Gap and Gucci were some of the first to adopt the idea, but lately furniture and home accessories stores are taking the temporary retail route as well. Modern housewares maker Alessi and accessories designer Jonathan Adler are among those opening pop-ups, some of which may last a weekend, others a whole season. Some could even lead to permanent stores. The pop-up arrangements simply allow shop owners to test the retail waters without a long-term financial commitment.

"I've brokered a lot of these deals," says Jay Luchs, an executive vice president with the real estate firm CB Richard Ellis. "Pop-up owners pay anywhere from 10% to 80% less than the normal, long-term monthly rent."

When Borders shut down on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, Luchs negotiated a deal for Kitson, the quirky, celebrity-flocked fashion and accessories boutique, to occupy the space on a short-term basis.

"The original rent was $180,000 a month," Luchs says. "Kitson is paying much, much less than that now."

Home decor pop-ups may stem from a Web-only business looking for a higher profile during the holidays, a large retailer testing a satellite location or an interior designer interested in minding a shop (but not for too long). Regardless of origins, the stores can deliver benefits for shoppers: more options, often better prices and a chance to test that armchair, throw pillow or fragrance diffuser before handing over the plastic.

For Tara Riceberg, having a seasonal shop lets her play boutique owner for the holiday season and full-time interior design during the rest of the year. In her recently opened home store on 3rd Street in Los Angeles, she says she has stocked hard-to-find home items at reasonable prices.

"There's nothing more depressing than picking up an object, and you say, 'Wow. $850.' You feel defeated," she says. "And I always wonder, 'How did everything become so absurdly expensive?' "

Riceberg has packed her 500-square-foot space, Tweak 99, with accessories such as bedazzled matchbooks, no-melt ice "rocks," Dutch-designed piggy banks, unusual tableware and glassware, desk accessories, candles and jewelry. About half of the items are under $50; the rest are $99.99 or less.

Florence Keller, owner of Villa Firenze, is also waving the low-price banner at her temporary store in Studio City. Keller, whose wholesale company supplies home textiles to stores that include Anthropologie and Z Gallerie, recently took over a shuttered Ann Taylor Loft space on Ventura Boulevard. She's selling her bedding, table linens, throw pillows, diffusers and other gift items directly to the public at what she says are wholesale prices.

"Everything is anywhere from 50% to 80% off retail," says Keller, who's geared many of the offerings to holiday shopping. As far as her post-holiday store plans, Keller isn't sure.

"We're here month to month," she says. "Until they find a 'real renter.' "

home@latimes.com

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