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Shop Today, Gone Tomorrow

Pop-up shops are appearing—and disappearing—all over the East Bay.


Illustration by Ben Kirchner

Pop-up shops are pretty self-explanatory: temporary or seasonal stores that pop up a few days or weeks at a time, and then disappear.

Pop-ups provide retailers with the flexibility to open at the most opportune times while building up buzz and a unique product line for each opening—all without the commitment of running a full-time store. With competition for shopping dollars fiercer than ever, the idea is catching on in the East Bay.

While success depends on many factors (location, availability of short-term leases, word of mouth), customers have responded well so far to the unique fleeting character of these stores.

“People seem to like the ephemeral nature of it,” says Samin Nosrat, from the Oakland-based Pop-Up General Store. “In French, it’s actually called ‘ephemeral market,’ which is so cool because that’s what it is. It’s there, and then it’s not.”

Pop-ups to look out for:

Susan Goodman, owner of Paris Flea Market in Livermore and Room With a Past in Walnut Creek, opens these two consignment stores to the public just four days a month, spending the rest of the time hunting for merchandise. 535 Leisure St., Livermore, (925) 960-0400, parisfleamarket.com; 1557 Third Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 933-1903, roomwithapast.com.

Tart Collections, a Concord-based clothing manufacturer that supplies couture clothing to boutiques across the country, started a holiday pop-up near Todos Santos Plaza for the first time in December. The company now plans to open a store a few times a year to sell off any leftover product from its seasonal lines. 2304 Willow Pass Rd., Concord, (925) 521-3300, tartcollections.com.

Christopher Lee and Samin Nosrat, former chefs at the now-closed Eccolo restaurant in Berkeley, started Pop-Up General Store a little over a year ago. Initially offering foods they prepared themselves, the store has evolved into a miniature farmers market run out of an Oakland catering kitchen. The General Store pops up every few weeks (or so) to sell food items from more than 30 gourmet purveyors. The store’s sporadic nature allows time to stockpile A-list products, and flexibility to sell them at the most strategic times (such as right before a holiday). 4629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, popupgeneralstore.com.

The new Market Hall project in Hercules takes the concept to another level by providing parking spaces for mobile food venders to come and go. The property also offers retail venders short-term leases (as little as three months) for storefront spaces open Fridays through Sundays, when foot traffic is greatest. 4000 San Pablo Ave., Hercules, (510) 741-8700, herculesmarkethall.com

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