Pop-Up Shops Bring the Hustle in Gordon Square

If you live in, near, or just frequent the Gordon Square Arts District/Detroit Shoreway neighborhood you may have noticed a flurry of activity the past couple of weeks. There have been men running around with cameras, and various men and women standing around with clipboards and earpieces looking official.  All of the activity seemed to have centered on a bevy of pop-up stores hosted by a handful of local entrepreneurs.

Last Friday evening I was attending a birthday party for my friends’ son hosted at Superelectric Pinball Parlor (which was wonderful, side note). I noticed a man with a camera contraption over his shoulders following another man on the sidewalk outside. Being my nosey self, I slipped out of the party and investigated, and happened upon a Pop-Up for Old City Soda Co. I had seen quite a bit of social media activity the day before about a Pop-Up for Fount and hadn’t realized there was another Pop-Up. My interest was piqued.

 I went back to the party and someone remarked, “Oh, I bet it’s that new LeBron show.” If you know me in real life, you know I know little to nothing about sports and star athletes. LeBron comment tucked away, moving on.

 I played some pinball, hung out with my friends and some adorable kiddos, then noticed the Old Soda guys walking around again outside, passing out postcards. I snagged a postcard and made plans to pop in to the Pop-Up and hope my friend’s didn’t think I was terribly rude. When no one was paying attention, I snuck down and sampled a beverage because I have a serious love for Old City Soda Co. I ordered the Paloma (Silver Tequila & Old City Grapefruit Soda). It was amazing. I chatted with the owners and staff, wished them luck, and went on my way. Later on I started to realize there had been a whole slew of pop-up shows happening. After some social media digging, I realized there had been six pop-up’s hosted by different small businesses over the course of two weekends. I decided on a whim to reach out to the businesses, most of the businesses couldn’t give me a lot of details due to confidentiality reasons as the show is still in the works. I was able to compile a decent amount of background info and put together the following recap as a faithful and curious observer, and as a lover of small businesses. The majority of the companies listed were started in 2013/2014, the newest – GroundSwell was started this year, but parent company Harness Cycle started in 2013.

 First up, on Thursday, April 14th, a yoga pop-up at Cleveland Public Theatre hosted by GroundSwell Collective. GroundSwell Collective initially began as a slew of community sporting activities, including running, yoga, and paddleboarding. The events were organized by Harness Cycle owner Annie Hartnett, and garnered such strong support that it gave birth to a new brand. The pop-up event was GroundSwell's official debut. Gina Kelly of Harness said of the event, “Talk about an incredible adventure! GroundSwell's pop-up yoga event was one serious challenge for our team -- 36 hours to organize a large-scale, warm-flow yoga experience, that told the G/S story and connected with the neighborhood, from scratch -- and we couldn't be more proudly giddy over the results. We were really excited to be part of this challenge -- it sparked something that would have otherwise taken much longer to activate. Nearly 250 people came to Cleveland Public Theatre, on very short notice, to join a unique yoga experience. Our goal was 70. The setting was perfect. Our instructors, Scott Supler and Diana Vitantonio, were awe-inspiring. The neighborhood businesses that dropped everything -- especially CPT -- to help us put on the event were golden. And the response we received from the Cleveland yoga community + Detroit Shoreway neighbors proved to us that these kind of movement community events have a place in Cleveland.”

Also, on April 14th, The Proper Pig Smokehouse quietly popped up in Gordon Square and featured collaboration between their selection of meats and Brewnuts donuts. I did reach out to Proper Pig, but unfortunately, was unable to confirm if they were indeed participating in the show being filmed. The Proper Pig also opened their brick-and-mortar location in Lakewood the same week so the fact that they could pull off a pop-up as well is impressive. 

On Friday, April 15th, Cleveland Bagel Company popped up in the storefront at 6602 Detroit Ave., with a social media call-to-arms to come on down and try their pizza bagels, casually mentioning it would be filmed. I especially liked the image from the one-day shop of their chalk sign showing all the businesses who helped them with their project. I love that this event resulted in all these other small businesses pitching in to help one another.

On Thursday, April 21st, Fount, the popular leather design house, popped up at 6507 Detroit Ave. with an impressive social media campaign ad the launch of new duffel appropriately christened the “Gordon Duffle”.  Their interior seemed to be the most ornate thanks to interior stylist Jennifer Harrison of Flea Market Fab. Owners Phillip and Jackie Wachter had the following comment about their experience, "We were so thankful to the community and city as a whole for all the support that we received at our pop up store! We had so much fun in Gordon Square!"

Also, on Thursday the 21st, Akron Honey Company held court at 6511 Detroit Ave. and was also the only small business from Akron in the mix. Owner Brent Wesley started Akron Honey Company in 2013 by turning a vacant city lot into an apiary. Wesley said this was the first pop-up they had ever done. “Our set up had local honey batches, honey sticks, honey on tap, scented and unscented beeswax candles, lip balms, some sample salves (a sneak peek of our upcoming product line), and some apparel.  Another first for us that day was an official honey tasting, which we branded as the 'Keeper's Table'. Our tasting was an fantastic journey through the world of food, filled with discovery of how honey impacts food when paired carefully.”

On Friday, April 22nd, Old City Soda Co. had their pop-up at 6602 Detroit Ave. This was the one I happened upon. They were serving up family-friendly drinks and ice cream during the day, and offered specialty floats and cocktails in the evening. Their interior was simple, yet rustic and featured a vintage pinball machine courtesy of Superelectric.

In regard to the show, for now, no one is able to say much – however, after a quick review of many of the photos of the pop-ups, one hashtag seemed to keep popping up, literally. #clevelandhustles

Remember that comment about LeBron James from earlier? Sometime back we read reports that Mr. James had teamed up to produce a show called “Cleveland Hustles”. CNBC reported back in January “LeBron James and his longtime friend and business partner Maverick Carter will give four aspiring local entrepreneurs the chance to realize their own dreams while also helping to revitalize a neighborhood in Cleveland. LeBron and Maverick will enlist the aid of four trusted business experts and associates, who will in turn invest in and mentor fledgling entrepreneurs who need a little jumpstart. In success, these four businesses will provide jobs and services for neighborhoods that desperately need investment.”  It was also confirmed in later reports that the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood was going to be the focus of the show.

I am not saying definitively the pop-ups were for the show Cleveland Hustles – but I can say that it looks pretty likely.  What I do know for certain is that Cleveland in fact does hustle. The small business community is a tight knit one and it was very cool to see so many people joining forces to pull these projects off. I’ll be keeping an eye on this story and as more developments are released – I’ll be revisiting.

Brandi McElhatten

Brandi McElhatten, INFJ, is a late bloomer. She graduated college in 2012 at age 34 with a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Studio Art. She describes herself as a healthy combination of both Mulder and Scully. She also has aspirations to be Cleveland's Nancy Drew. She was born on an island in the Pacific and now resides blocks away from the Great Lake Erie with her family and a small brigade of tabby cats. 

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 9:17 PM, 05.10.2016