In the past three years, San Francisco has experienced pop-up fatigue. The pop-up Levi's workshop. Pop-up restaurants. Pop-up butchers. Pop-up pet adoption. Pop-up sperm bank. (Just kidding. Though we wouldn't be surprised.)
But in Oakland, local businesses are doing something different. On Friday, the Old Oakland neighborhood welcomed Popuphood: a permanent pop-up neighborhood, featuring only East Bay vendors, aiming to revitalize Oakland's retail economy.
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At first glance, it seemed as though Popuphood missed the memo on what defines a pop-up -- impermanence. But upon closer inspection, Popuphood may just be the most brilliant use of the pop-up concept we've seen yet: six new retail shops in five previously vacant storefronts with six months of free rent. The goal: to revitalize the neighborhood while giving retailers a chance to get on their feet. And with the introduction of Popuphood, an entire vacant block in Oakland has been filled with business.
The Old Oakland neighborhood has already gained attention for its growing bar and restaurant scene with Tamarindo, the Trappist, B Restaurant and others within blocks. But the area, like much of Oakland, has continuously struggled with its retail community.
"Oakland has a real problem with retail," said Popuphood cofounder Sarah Filley in a documentary by Eva Kolenko. "People don't know where to go when they come to Oakland. So give them a place to go." Filley, an established artist and designer, founded Popuphood with Alfonso Dominguez, owner of the already booming Tamarindo restaurant. Eager to see their neighborhood thrive and fortunate to be thriving themselves, the pair invested in their community. With the creation of Popuphood, Filley and Dominguez are battling the controversial "no there there" problem that Oakland has struggled with for a century.
To some, the idea of artisan shops taking over Old Oakland may smack of gentrification, so keeping Popuphood locally focused is essential to the concept.
"It had to be here," said Dominguez. "Oakland had to own this project. I didn't want to hear, 'Oh you brought in someone from the City to 'help Oakland.'' I didn't want to hear that." Thus, nearly everyone involved in the project is from Oakland. Dominguez and Filley carefully curated the retailers involved, filling the storefronts with talented local artists like famed jeweler Sarah Swell.
"I love Oakland, I love everything about it," said Swell in the documentary. "And it breaks my heart to walk down the street and see all these empty storefronts."
"This project is a total dream come true for me," said metalsmith Kate Ellen who owns Popuphood's Crown Nine jewelry. "I get the opportunity to open my own store which would be so cost prohibitive if I didn't have Popuphood."
Besides Crown Nine, Popuphood is also home to Manifesto Bicycles, Marion and Rose's Workshop, Sticks and Stones gallery, Piper and John General Goods and Turtle and Hare design -- all distinguished local retailers.
"These partnerships that we're making, this is going to be the new model," said Filley. "It's no longer gonna be just put in a big box store somewhere and hope that everyone else follows suit. I don't want people to laugh at me about how Oakland could come up anymore; it's been 20 years of that. I'm gonna say, 'Well you know, you invest now, otherwise you're gonna miss out.'"
Learn more about Popuphood in Eva Kolenko's stellar documentary below:
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