Turners pop-up store has legs
Will remain open as retail incubator for local artists
One of Greenfield artist Dan Brown's handpainted jackets seems to be watching pianist David Bartley perform during Sunday's opening of the holiday Pop Up Shop on Avenue A in Turners Falls.
TURNERS FALLS — As most holiday pop-up shops disappear from temporary storefronts this month, the shop at the corner of Avenue A and Third Street is instead set to evolve.
Husband-and-wife team Don Kruger and Lynn Nicols of Gill opened the Powertown Pop Up Shop in the town-owned building in November, with the support of the Turners Falls RiverCulture program and the Board of Selectmen’s nod to fill the otherwise empty Avenue A storefront for the holidays.
Originally set to close Christmas Eve, the shop is now to remain open through June, and from there into the foreseeable future.
The Montague Board of Selectmen this month approved the request to extend the shop’s rent-free stay in the Colle Opera Building storefront, formerly home to the Gallery at Hallmark, and added the building’s basement to the approved space.
Organizers asked selectmen for the extension to provide breathing space while the partners solidify plans for the building.
Lisa Davol, director of the village-booster RiverCulture program, had initially said one hope for the shop was as a pilot for a permanent shop, and organizers are now proceeding with that plan.
Davol said the shop has been surprisingly busy given its brief existence, and organizers now plan to continue with the shop to enliven that section of downtown and provide an incubator for local artists.
“For years we’ve been talking about having a co-op gallery or some kind of commercial artisan gallery because there’s very few opportunities for artists to sell their work in town,” Davol said.
Kruger and Nicols said the shop offers wares on consignment from about 40 artists, mostly local.
Davol told selectmen the consignment model or a move to co-op use would provide artists and artisans an opportunity to test the market and work out what sells before a possible jump to opening their own shops.
“The last thing we want to happen is for them to open up storefronts of their own and then fail because they’re not ready or they don’t have the wherewithal,” Davol said.
Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio supported the idea, saying it might not be the most lucrative rental option for the town but it might nevertheless be the best use, helping to develop a critical mass of options to attract shoppers downtown.
Last week, Davol said the plan is in development but the shop will likely remain largely consignment with a few spaces rented out to individual artists.
The basement is envisioned as mixed-use space to provide room for RiverCulture events, a performance and possibly rehearsal space for the nearby Shea Theater, and rentable venue.
“Obviously, this isn’t a 100 percent sure thing — nothing ever is in retail — but I think what is exciting about it is it’s sort of a mixed-use facility,” Nicols said. “It could really be another hub in the town, with the Shea, to offer an opportunity for a lot of various things.”
Davol said she is looking for fresh revenue streams to sustain the RiverCulture program and the space might provide one.
The program has received about half its annual operating budget from a competitive Mass. Cultural Council grant every year since its inception seven years ago, but Davol said she isn’t banking on an eighth award.
Erin MacLean, co-owner of neighboring Avenue A shop Loot, said the pop-up has given her somewhere else to direct customers.
“We’re a little destination shop, we get people coming from all over ... they find us and when they come to Turners Falls they want to know what else they can do,” MacLean said. “They get really excited, inspired and it’s been great to say ‘go across the street,’” MacLean said.
The pop-up has also provided somewhere to direct artists who come into the primarily industrial antiques shop looking for a place to sell their work, MacLean said.
For the moment, the shop is open and will close for a week following New Year’s Day to adjust its inventory, Davol said.
“The plan is to keep it open and probably move forward with the hybrid model and then tweak it as we see fit,” Davol said.
The selectmen extended the shop’s stay through June, with a more permanent plan to be worked out in the meantime.
Davol said organizers intend to begin paying rent in March, before the June deadline, to help the town.