Rise Of The Twin Cities Pop-Up Experience

October 21, 2010

Timely. Relevant. Buzzworthy. Fresh.

These words are always on our minds at Fast Horse, which is why I’ve been particularly excited about “Pop-Ups” popping up around Minneapolis. The pop-up concept is a simple one: shops, restaurants or just about anything appear for a short time with captivating offers, limited availability items or promotions, then leave as quick as they came.

Check out what Minneapolis Pop-Up shops, Mighty Swell and NorthernGRADE, had to say about their recent pop-up experiences:

Mighty Swell

Meghan Andrews and Rae Alexis are the creators of vintage pop-up shop Mighty Swell. Their edited collection of vintage clothing, accessories and home decor appeared at Umber Studios earlier this month.

How did you get the idea to start a pop-up shop? Any inspiration?

The idea to start Mighty Swell basically came out of our frustration with online retailing. As life-long thrifters and vintage-lovers, we had been stockpiling lots of amazing merchandise, but with full-time jobs, boyfriends, dogs, houses, etc., it was hard to find the time to painstakingly measure, photograph and list all of our items. With all that work put into it, you have to hike up your prices, which also did not sit well with us. Lastly, with online retail, you never get to really connect with your customers.

To us, starting a pop-up shop would allow us have it all. We can sell our inventory of vintage finds at affordable points, we have face-to-face interaction with our customers and we get to do all of this without investing in a brick-and-mortar store. In terms of pop-up inspiration, I (Meghan) am really inspired by Lune Vintage’s mobile store.

What were customer reactions to the pop-up experience?

Everyone loved it. I think the sense of anticipation and the “get it before it’s gone” attitude made for a really energized and exciting shopping experience. Having our vendors on-site to help customers accessorize and style their finds was priceless!

We hear it was a success? What elements attributed to this?

I was really proud of our promotional materials, and think they were eye-catching and memorable. We also were very fortunate to nab Yelp’s sponsorship, and to have gotten so much media attention. We got press mentions in METRO magazine, the Star-Tribune and Vita.MN and blog mentions from METRO magazine, Minnesota Monthly, Minneapolis/St. Paul magazine, Vita.mn, Pop Fizz Daily, Secrets of the City and other local fashion/vintage-loving bloggers.

What was the most exciting part?

Saturday morning, hands down. After months of preparation, and a few weeks of working around the clock, it was time to actually open. The store looked freakin’ amazing. Our vendors were all there and were super pumped. People were waiting outside. We flipped over the Open sign and boom! We were non-stop busy for literally, hours. There was a moment about two-and-a-half hours in on Saturday when Rae grabbed my arm and was like “Whoa.” After ringing people up continuously since 10 a.m., and we both just had to pause and be like, “We did this. Holy shit.” I get goose bumps still, thinking about that.

Do you foresee loss of interest in the pop-up experience?

No way! We had so many customers ask us about our next event, and hundreds sign up for our mailing list to get updates about our future pop-ups. There’s a freshness and excitement to pop-up shops that normal stores can’t compete with. Also, there was a definite sense of urgency – like, I have to buy this now, because they won’t be here next week.

What are your long-term goals?

Right now, our main goal is to keep having pop-up shopping events every two to three months. We’d also love to sign on more vintage vendors, including someone who focuses solely on men’s wear. We’ve had offers from friends on the East Coast to bring our merchandise out there and do in-home pop-up events, which is definitely something fun to consider. And, drawing on inspiration from Lune Vintage, we’d love to have a mobile Mighty Swell pop-up shop someday. Our biggest goal, no matter how big or popular it gets, is that we want to keep it super affordable for our vendors and our customers.

I hear there’s another pop-up shop coming in December. Any ideas on where you’ll be located?

We’re hoping to move around every time, so for this sale, we’re looking at a non-profit gallery space in Northeast. We have close to double the amount of vintage vendors signed on for the December event, too, so a slightly bigger space might work out better for us, too. Stay tuned for details!


In September, Minnesota-based J.W. Hulme Co. and Pierrepont Hicks hosted men’s pop-up market NorthernGRADE. It was located at Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis and featured authentic made in USA labels. The pop-up market encouraged shoppers to grab a beer and a bite, listen to live music, stop by the photo booth and talk to vendors about their products.

Katherine McMillan, co-founder + creative director at Pierrepont Hicks

How did you get the idea to start a pop-up shop? Any inspiration?

We were very much inspired by A Continuous Lean’s Michael Williams American List. Jen Guarino (President of J.W. Hulme Co) and I sat down one day over coffee and made a list of the brands in our region who manufacture in America and share a similar philosophy. As the list grew we got more excited and realized this was something big.

Were you looking for a specific space? Did you have a certain criteria?

Architectural Antiques was a home run. We walked in, and knew NorthernGRADE had to be held there. The large scale antiques create a natural ambiance, and really apply to the style of the event. It was a no-brainer.

What were customer reactions to the pop-up experience?

People seemed to be excited about our event and the brands who were there. We saw so many folks really embracing American-made as an important part of their buying experience and that’s amazing.

We hear it was a success. What elements attributed to this?

First and foremost – our vendors. The amazing group we had the honor of promoting, their brands really speak for themselves.  Heritage brands like Red Wing to newer, innovative artisans like Freeman Transport. It was all because of them.

Do you foresee loss of interest in the pop-up experience?

Pop-Ups have been going on a long time now. I think the Pop-Up has to be produced in the right way, and not exploited. It’s small and it should stay small.

Should we look forward to another NorthernGRADE ?