Community Editorial Board: Pop-up shopping


Members of our Community Editorial Board, a group of community residents engaged and passionate about local issues, answer the following question: A pop-up garden market is coming to Boulder, joining other businesses offering shopping and dining outdoor and seasonal attract post-pandemic customers. Your opinion ?

My latest purchases the experience in Boulder was grim.

My kids and I went to several stores looking for a birthday present, swimsuit and some summer clothes. The shelves of every store we went to were partially empty. Vendors were nowhere to be found. The lighting was painfully bright and the whole experience felt hollow and unsatisfying.

Despite my desire to spend our money locally, this shopping trip was a bust. We went home and ordered the things we wanted online.

This recent shopping experience makes me a big fan of the concept of pop-up stores. In theory, pop-up markets seem to offer a unique and diverse selection of goods in a small, confined space, which makes staffing easier and eliminates the need for massive restocking.

Of course, the devil is in the details. If these pop-up markets simply sell the same things that can be easily obtained online or on a quick trip to a retail store, they are unlikely to succeed.

Similarly, prices should be competitive with other purchasing options. Too often the prices at pop-up stands or farmers markets seem to be high – call it the candle shop tax. I would expect a pop-up market price to be more competitive than a retail store, given that they don’t have the overhead of a traditional brick and mortar operation.

Finally, for pop-ups to work, they need an effective communication strategy and a visible placement. From social media to traditional advertising, pop-up entrepreneurs need to advertise their existence (where they will be and when) to attract customers.

I’m not a buyer by nature, but like everyone else, I buy things. Buying things in person from people I can interact with in a temporary pop-up seems like a wonderful alternative to the impersonal online experience or the reality of empty stores that I’ve found in Boulder recently.

Rachel Walker,

Despite the danger of COVID-19 now falling below the common flu, it seems, for some of us at least, that the fear of being in enclosed spaces with lots of people isn’t going away.

And the appeal of alfresco dining, and now alfresco shopping, will likely remain as well. In our generally friendly climate, what’s not to like?

The crux of the problem with pop-up stores is the land they use. Is it public or private? Was the pop-up store invited on site by the landowner? Is the store squatted in a public car park? As with most things, the devil is in the details.

Food trucks, a sort of pop-up store for food, have been around for decades. Some of them, like the Salsa Verde stand near Rock & Resole, are semi-permanent. I wonder if they pay rent for this place… What would stop another food truck from parking right next to them?

Avoiding high rents is a strong incentive, but it probably wouldn’t be fair to park a mobile store, for free, on the street next to Montbell or Stio or Patagonia, stores that all pay substantial rent. If the car park is public, does the pop-up store only pay the hourly rate? Is there a time limit to park there? Wouldn’t there be a queue of pop-up shops all waiting for their chance in the main parking areas? I want a free and open market, but changing the rules mid-lease is wrong.

If the pop-up store is invited by the owner of the land, all is well and more power to these outdoor establishments. If they inhabit the commons, regulation may be necessary, but perhaps we should wait until there is a problem before solving it.

Bill Wright,

One of my best memories of living in New York is the annual filling of the halls of Grand Central Station each holiday season with an enormous variety of “pop-up” stores. The merchandise for sale runs the gamut, from holiday-specific items like ornaments and wrapping paper, to new gadgets and other potentially giftable products, and even fine art (old and new).

The influx of shoppers added to the already uncomfortably dense crowds trying to move between home and work gives the whole scene a festive and strangely dizzying feeling. But these stalls must be economically advantageous for both pop-ups and established stores, as they seemed to get more packed every year (at least, before COVID-19).

And as quickly as they appear, they disappear, fading into the daily grind of New York life.

The ephemeral nature of these stalls, their owners and their wares, makes me wonder where all these people and their wares go between gigs. New York, like any major metropolitan area, is a huge maze of places and things, where people of all types mix and match, buy, sell and trade, and generally make their living wherever and whenever they are.

Despite the insane real estate costs, there are still affordable homes close enough to the action to make it worth the extra effort to earn a living and even raise a family. It’s not easy for many, but doable in a much larger environment.

Boulder’s pop-up stores, like other cities, always need dedicated owners and good enough products to succeed. Such stores can, at least temporarily, attract traffic and spending.

But they are not an economic panacea, especially in the context of an increasingly rich and homogeneous urban structure in which sellers cannot live.

So, of course, let’s experiment a bit, but don’t pretend that there aren’t much bigger problems to solve.

Fintan Steele,


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