About a year and a half ago, Natalia Douglass started a business, channeling her lifelong love of repurposing clothes and other materials to create new, beautifully detailed pieces. She sold her inventory of embellished denim jackets, restyled tops, and upcycled accessories at festivals and weekend-long pop-ups under the name Detali, the Ukrainian word for “details.”
Then a friend told her about a new opportunity: A long-term pop-up space in Gloucester looking for young businesses interested in trying out a more traditional retail operation. Douglass applied and was accepted to share the space with another entrepreneur. The doors opened on Detali’s first semi-permanent home on October 25.
“I’m already happy,” Douglass says, less than a month after opening. “I’ve met so many people in the community – amazing people – and it’s only been three weeks.”
The shop is part of an innovative program developed by UpNext, a company that has been around since 2018 helping connect small emerging brands with retail spaces where they can stage temporary shops. Then the pandemic hit. Many small businesses took serious financial hits, and some had to close their doors for good. At the same time, federal and state grant funding started to flow in to help mitigate this damage.
UpNext founder Allison Yee saw an opportunity in these dynamics. She founded Project: Pop-Up, which forms partnerships directly with municipalities and community groups to apply for and use grant funding to launch pop-up spaces. The program uses the grant money to defray the cost of rent, provide assistance with marketing and event planning, and offer other support and resources.
The goal is twofold: To generate more activity and energy in downtown areas and to give young businesses a leg up by providing exposure and bricks-and-mortar experience they might otherwise have been unable to afford.
“We try to make it as move-in ready as possible, we try to give them financial support, marketing support,” Yee says. “They get to focus on their core and what they do best.”
The first Project: Pop-Up shops debuted in Needham and Newton in 2021, and others have followed in Burlington, Lexington, and Melrose. The Gloucester space is the latest to launch, occupying a small storefront in a new mixed-use building that didn’t yet have any other retail occupants. Currently, simple racks hold dozens of Detali’s jackets and tops, and a wooden table displays necklaces and table linens. True to the shop’s focus on upcycling, a sardine can holds a sheaf of business cards.
Opportunity and Energy
The first tenants in the space, from August to October this year, were Beached Goods, an apparel and accessories line that formerly had operated exclusively online, and Create & Escape, a Peabody-based do-it-yourself craft workshop that wanted to explore opening a second location. In October, the space was taken over by Detali and TehillahS, which sold jewelry and other accessories made with ankara fabric, a brightly colored, traditional African fabric.
The Project: Pop-Up program meant that the space was very affordable – just $250 per month – says Wendy Lattof, owner of Create & Escape. Immersing in the Gloucester community was wonderful, she says, and galvanized her desire to open another location in the city. She also noticed that the space brought a distinct energy to the area, she says.
“The neighborhood has been so excited,” she says. “When people walk by, they’re like, ‘Wow, something’s here!’”
The program is a great fit for Gloucester, benefiting both the participating businesses and the downtown as a whole, says Mayor Greg Verga.
“This is the perfect way to both fill the space and to help these small businesses have the bricks-and-mortar experience that might not be within their reach otherwise,” he says, speaking at the October ribbon-cutting, shortly after making the first purchase from the Detali shop, an upcycled guitar strap made from seat belt material.
The future of the Gloucester space is up in the air at the moment. The future of the Gloucester space is up in the air at the moment. Detali will remain in the space through the spring, thanks to a partnership with local nonprofits the Brace Cove Foundation and Action Inc. Douglass plans to open the space up to other Ukrainian-owned businesses and host weekend events in the shop.
Yee also expects Project: Pop-Up and the city to pursue more funding for future iterations. Meanwhile, Yee and her team are getting ready for new openings in Lexington, Melrose, and Wellesley. And she doesn’t see any sign that the popularity of the concept is slowing down.
“It has been so amazing,” Yee says. “It can be a really transformative experience – for the entrepreneurs in particular, but for everyone involved.”
206 Main St., Gloucester, project-pop-up.com/206-main-st