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PopPHX Spotlights Small, Lesser-Known Boutiques

September 24, 2017 by Leah Goldberg

Galeana 39’s PopPHX window display had all kinds of eye-catching pieces from patterned pillows to paintings stopping pedestrians at the Renaissance Square. (Photo: Curtis Parhams)

As the demand for parking, grocery stores and retail shops in Downtown Phoenix grows, so does a desire for quality and convenience. PopPHX aspires to provide both in hopes that Downtown will improve its retail presence.

PopPHX is a grassroots initiative dedicated to showcasing local merchants through pop-up shops. Ashley Bourget, a project manager with the City of Phoenix’s retail division, created PopPHX as a side project in her free time.

According to Bourget, if Downtowners had more opportunities to purchase quality and local goods, PopPHX could eventually change the way they shop.

“(PopPHX) gets people talking because they are not used to seeing retail Downtown,” Bourget said.

Pop-up shops are a trendy way to sell products in small, temporary retail venues or at an event that makes use of existing and sometimes non-traditional spaces. Bourget hopes the PopPHX initiative will “bring an experience Downtown and to really cultivate a sense of community between the building owners, merchants and employees.”

These artistic wall pieces give a modern twist to tapestry on a small corner of Galeana 39. (Photo: Leah Goldberg)

Over the span of six weeks from August through September, Bourget chose two small brick-and-mortar businesses and debuted items from their shops inside an empty display window at Renaissance Square, located in the breezeway between the towers.

Rubymint General had a display in the window for four weeks and then Galeana 39 for two weeks. After advertising their products in a good old-fashioned window display during the week, the shop owners had pop-up shops at lunchtime every Friday to sell various items from their stores.

“It breaks up the day and gives them something new instead of just walking over to Subway to grab a sandwich, they might stumble across the pop-up,” Bourget said about the Downtown employees. “Even if they don’t buy anything, we are still driving (customers) to that other person’s store.”

Temporary retail like PopPHX and boutiques in the hub of Downtown Phoenix are few and far between. Besides department stores like JCPenny that closed decades ago, Downtown Phoenix has yet to become a significant retail center.

“We have Charming Charlie’s, Urban Outfitters and everyone shops at CVS,” Bourget said. “At uptown they have lots of boutiques, but they don’t have foot traffic.”

In recent months, the Uptown Plaza in central Phoenix has gained quite a few retail stores like West Elm and Local Nomad. But according to Bourget, Downtown Phoenix has something they don’t: foot traffic.

With its busy, pedestrian-friendly streets, and current lack of retail options, Bourget said that Downtown Phoenix is the “natural place” for pop-ups.

Gift and home decor boutique, Galeana 39 rests on McDowell Road and shares the block with Palabras Bookstore and the McDowell Market. (Photo: Leah Goldberg)

Pop-up shops are trending outside of Downtown Phoenix ranging from big-name brands like Glossier and Ban.do to kitten adoption pop-ups at the Scottsdale Quarter mall. The first two participants of PopPHX, Rubymint General and Galeana 39, both have brick and mortar stores located on McDowell Road. The owner of Galeana 39, Curtis Parhams, hosted the second PopPHX and said that customers were very impressed by his window display and array of gifts and home decor.

Downtown can expect more future PopPHX shops every month, but the formatting of time and place is still being determined. Bourget says that she would like to host a t-shirt pop-up at the Downtown campus of Arizona State University and mirror different concepts in the future with a variety of shop owners.

For eager shoppers who want to know when and where the next PopPHX is, stay connected with the pop-up’s Instagram and Facebook pages.


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