Blog

STAY: Part Three

 
 
What Happened When Spring Street Took Over a Raw Retail Space for Six Months

By Amy Virginia Buchanan and Patrick Janelle

 

In last week’s installment on our pop-up stay, we talked about all the technicalities of opening a shop, from architecture and design to inventory storage and staffing. In our final piece of the series, we take you from opening through closing and beyond.  

The exterior of the store featured hand-lettered signage by Brian Kaspr.
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The night before we opened, we hosted a classic cabaret in the space. By classic we mean: jugglers, clowns, a harpist, and a comedian to fill the space with laughter. The comedian, Ramy Youssef, said to us: “I’m not sure what exactly you sell here. Maybe vibes?” We all got a good laugh out of that, but he hit on something that would prove to be one of our first and biggest issues throughout the store’s run. As we cleaned up the beer cans and reset the store for our grand opening the next day, we truly had no idea what to expect. But we knew that we were putting our best, and most Spring Street, foot forward.

But sometimes, your best foot forward doesn’t quite hit the ground properly.

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Members gather together for an in-store event.
 

What a lovely gallery! Oh, it’s a store?

 
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Gallery-like tableaus from the store
 
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Once the doors opened, we encountered a multitude of things that hadn’t even crossed our mind. Things like getting a fridge for our hard-working staff so they didn’t have to eat at the one of three (exceptionally delicious) restaurants at Platform every day. Or like, actually caring for and keeping alive all those plants we bought so we could actually, you know, sell them. Our biggest challenge which took weeks to resolve was simply setting up a telephone because we were required to have a functional landline within the store.

 

And then, there was the matter of the store. In its previous incarnation, our space had been a gallery. Then we’d come in and made it a little too pristine and precious, too clean. In essence, gallery-esque. When people walked in, they seemed hesitant to touch any of the beautiful wares we’d stocked our shelves with: fragrances by Cinnamon Projects, brass and leather items from globe trotters Rose + Fitzgerald, furniture from LA local Stephen Kenn, jewelry from Hollywood Fodder—and the list goes on. So we worked hard to bring in even more inventory, worked with our merchandiser, Selena, on varying up the location and arrangement of goods, and fought with our tendency to want to make everything look “perfect.”

 
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A seating area made for guest seating—and selling plants and furniture.
 

During our first three months, there were certainly rough days, but our staff worked hard to make genuine connections with our customers. That wasn’t difficult, as we’d hired a kick-ass team who cared as much about hospitality as we did: making people feel welcome, sharing personal tidbits about the makers we featured, and adding that extra Spring Street touch to every interaction, such as offering Health-Ade kombucha to anyone who passed through our doors, or dropping a gratis bottle of Cobram Estate olive oil (our personal fave) into the shopping bag alongside any sale, no matter how big or small.

This ultimately paid off. It turns out what people are craving more than anything right now is a place for togetherness, a place to commune over politics, community action, the weather, you name it. A store can be a positive light in dark times. It can be a place to find moments of beauty that transcend the confines of four walls—beauty you take home and pass along to someone else who’d get a smile out of it. A store can encourage behaviors that ultimately influence the growth of community, and that’s a good thing.

So at first we’d set out to write a “how to run a pop-up” post, but what we’ve ended up with is a “how to find ways to affect your community” post. The actual creation of a pop-up retail establishment isn’t too hard. Find the right people, from start to finish, is the most important advice we can give. Find people who care about your store as if it is their own. Know that there will be hard days. But it was important to not let anything distract us from our ultimate goal: bringing people together.

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Customers at stay were greeted by vignettes of some of our favorite products, with colorful backdrops created with Farrow & Ball color.
 

Our second piece of advice is to find ways to gather people around what you do as much as possible. Have dinners, book and magazine launches, panel discussions, yoga classes, whatever. Use your space to its fullest. These moments served as high points during slow sales days or low foot traffic days. They reminded us why we were doing this in the first place.

 
 
 
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Scenes and various moments from the six months our doors were open.
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When we closed our store, we had been open for six months. Our last two months were our most successful in terms of sales. We considered keeping on going, as the option was there, but figured why not go out on top? It only took us three days to pack everything up—and to throw one last party. At the kegger we threw to celebrate the store’s closing, we had a dance party with our incredible staff, said goodbye to all the members of our newly formed community who had shown up to show their appreciation of the space, and wished everyone luck as we all went off into the world to pursue our dreams.  

We left Los Angeles with full hearts and some serious insights for building a permanent space, should that day come again. While nothing in the works just yet, we can tell you for certain that were we to do it all over again, we’d have a kitchen, and of course, a stage.

 

Photos by Sam Ortiz and nicole lamotte