Alexandria Restaurateur To Turn Old Town Bridal Building Into Pop-Up Shop With Juice Bar, Co-Working Space
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Alexandria restaurateur Scott Shaw had never run a pop-up shop before, but as a 23-year resident of Old Town and a member of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership board, he knew a good business for the city when he saw one.
After the AEDP sponsored a holiday-themed pop-up shop at 116 King St. that brought together 26 different fashion and lifestyle brands, Shaw saw an opportunity to continue the shop's success. He formed an LLC with his partner, fashion wholesaler Jennifer Desiderio, and signed a six-month lease to reopen the shop last month. Shaw has even bigger plans to make the pop-up concept a permanent fixture in Old Town Alexandria.
He acquired the two-story Hannelore's bridal building at 106 N Lee St., just a block from 116 King, and is launching a major renovation later this month. He plans to open the pop-up shop in a 3K SF space on the ground floor, joined by South Block Juice Co., an Arlington-based micro juicery with eight DC-area locations. On the second floor, Shaw plans to open a 7K SF co-working office. He said the Hannelore's bridal shop has closed and plans to reopen in Potomac.
Shaw has already signed a letter of intent with South Block and was in New York this week meeting with a co-working provider to pitch the idea of opening a space in the building. He declined to name the company before reaching a deal, but specified that it was not WeWork.
Construction will start April 17 on the full-scale renovation of the building, which Shaw hopes will be complete in time for the shop to open Nov. 1. The renovation will add second-story windows for the loft-style co-working space.
"From my perspective as a restaurateur and resident of Old Town, I can see the changes going on in Old Town, and now there’s new developers coming in," Shaw said. "This is kind of a bet on the future of Old Town, and I think this kind of mixed-use project, if it's not live/work/play, it's work/eat/shop. I think it has a critical mass when you put different uses like this together and one plus one plus one equals five."
The concept for the pop-up shop focused on bringing in small e-commerce businesses that otherwise would not open a brick-and-mortar store. The managers curate the store to create a smooth flow between the brands and handle the sales so brand owners do not have to be on site.
Many of the fashion lines have been for women, but the shop also includes quite a bit of men's and children's products, two categories Desiderio said were missing from Old Town's retail offerings.
"What I think made it successful is bringing brands to Alexandria that no one has been introduced to before," Desiderio said. "It gives brands who are smaller and going direct to consumer versus doing brick-and-mortar, it gives them an outlet for the customer to touch and feel their products."
While creating the pop-up, Shaw and Desiderio consulted with pop-up expert Emily Isenberg, founder of Isenberg Projects, who has worked with dozens of similar concepts.
"One thing Scott did that was so successful was he really knows his audience and made sure to bring a concept that really spoke to that audience," Isenberg, who is based in Boston, said. "It's an affluent area, and he brought that Nantucket-ness to Alexandria, which is slightly aspirational but also very on point."
When Shaw and Desiderio open the new permanent pop-up location on Lee Street later this year, they are considering an experiment with new themes for the store each quarter. Desiderio was in San Francisco this week talking with companies that do not have an East Coast presence, and is considering doing a "West Coast calling" theme to bring dozens of these brands over at once to share the pop-up for three months.
She is also thinking about working with the Australian Embassy to do an Australian theme, as she said the country's fashion has had a big influence on American style recently. Shaw said the store will also include products other than fashion, such as home, lifestyle and sporting goods.
Alexandria Economic Development CEO Stephanie Landrum said the success of the pop-up shop has helped bring more life to King Street, and she is excited about the plan to make it a permanent fixture.
"For Alexandria, it's great because it’s an exciting thing people hear about and say 'let me pop into Old Town and check out this store,'" Landrum said. "It’s a reason for them to come and because the inventory changes on a regular basis it draws people multiple times."
Now that the 116 King pop-up proved successful and AED allowed the private partners to take it over, Landrum said she is looking at ways to duplicate the concept in other parts of Alexandria.
"We did it in really the core of King Street to test it," Landrum said. "Now we’d like to take this and put it in places where retail is having a difficult time leasing, where we're looking to activate a storefront."