“Pop Ups” Popping Up All Around Evanston

Pop up retailers demonstrate superhuman enthusiasm.



There’s a new-ish trend sweeping America, and it’s referred to as Pop Up Retail

Evanston had several Halloween pop ups this past fall.

They’re long gone, but if you look around, you’ll find a number of new and exciting pop ups taking over vacant shops.

I stopped by Pop Up Boutique at 1307 1/2 Chicago Avenue (the former home of Bagel Art) yesterday to snap some pictures for this story just as Amy Amoroso pulled up to open shop for the day.

Amoroso, a jewelry importer, teacher and designer who grew up in Barrington and has lived in Evanston for over a decade, conceived and executed the plans for Pop Up Boutique in – get this – in 19 days. 

She’d been talking with her husband in early November about how challenging it was to mobilize her jewelry and displays for shows. She’d never heard of the pop up concept before a waitress at Union Pizzeria mentioned the term when Amy described her dream of setting up a temporary shop. The name Pop Up Boutique was borne from that conversation. She drove around Evanston asking owners of vacant shops for the chance to rent space temporarily; few would consider it.

Amoroso contacted several local artists and merchants to join her vision, and on November 18, she took possession of the empty bagel café. She and a skeleton crew of helpers moved counters and the baking oven and cleaned and painted the space from top to bottom. She made up business cards (expedited, of course), filed for insurance, set up a DeLonghi espresso machine, an extravagant present she received as a birthday gift. According to Amoroso, “My husband and I have to drink as much coffee we can...until we die...to justify this coffee maker.” She offered me a latte while showing me around the shop, describing how she was able to pull it all together in such a short amount of time.

“We opened on Black Friday,” she says, smiling.

“That’s incredible,” I say. “From the time you thought of this idea until you opened your doors was only…” trying to do the math…

“…three weeks,” she says, humbly taking a sip of her extravagant coffee. “It’s pretty amazing.”

I wanted to know how the logistics came together and how she wasn’t deterred by the minutiae of setting up a business.

“People were incredibly generous,” she says. She points to Lora Swanson of Swantiques at 1812 Central Street who, when she heard about Amoroso’s pop up plan, offered three chandeliers and burlap to dress up Amoroso’s storefront.  “She delivered them herself. She even brought me extension cords!”

Amoroso also points to the kindness of people like local furniture designer Sean Ahearn who lent display cabinets and stands.

“I mean, we felt like college kids, just scrounging around for anything to use, you know?” she says, showing me the bricks she brought in from her own back yard, used to display items in Pop Up Boutique.

The store is filled with jewelry from Amoroso’s own line (www.anomalybyamy.com), as well as jewelry made by the students she works with out of her home.  Check out bhearts.weebly.com for pieces made by some of Amoroso’s students. Pop Up Boutique also features clothing from Hubba Hubba, Art by Lisa Limas, baskets by Zulu Craft and lots more…

“How did you spread the word about Pop Up Boutique?” I ask. “Was it all social networking?”

“Actually, it’s been about 70% social networking and 30% word of mouth,” Amoroso says, looking around the store.

Business has been terrific, and Amoroso seems pleased with how well it’s done, particularly considering how quickly she pulled it all together. On December 21, the hours (normally Tues-Sunday 10-6pm) will extend to 8pm for hors d'oeuvres and a “close to closing” party: Pop Up Boutique will close its doors on Christmas Eve around 4pm, so pop in while you still can…

Martha Moser December 07, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Another pop up boutique worthy of mention has been set up for the holidays by the Apparel Industry Board in Chicago. "Made in Chicago" is at 44 E. Grand Ave. (across from Nordstroms) and has collections of 21 selected Chicago area designers. It has women's sportswear, evening wear, hats, accessories, motorcycle and scooter apparel, children's clothes, even a boutique of gift wrap. Take that, China!


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