Shoppers can expect to find unique and fun gifts from 14 local businesses—Bohemian Gemme, DiZurita, Flor Boutique, Girl & Guy Code Soaps, HERNÁN, Honeydipped, J Lacel Boutique, Jowa, Lirica, Love Art Style, Lulo Texas, Marta Francine, Meechi Ceramics, and Red Cat & Co—inside the vacant retail space at 231 E. Houston St. over the next two weekends.
The 2018 Holiday Market kicks off with a grand opening celebration 5-8 p.m. today (Dec. 7) with live music, small bites and drinks, and free totes with a purchase from one of the vendors. The market will be open noon-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 1-7 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16.
The OPEN Downtown Pop Up Shop Program, developed by the Center City Development and Operations Department (CCDO) in 2013, uses vacant downtown spaces to provide small business owners with temporary, low- to no-cost storefronts. The program also provides local businesses with an opportunity to connect with customers in a traditional setting and activate the downtown area as a place to visit and shop.
“The OPEN Holiday Market is the perfect occasion to shop for unique gifts while celebrating and supporting local businesses,” CCDO Director John Jacks said in a press release.
Since 2013, more than 80 local businesses have helped activate 20 vacant downtown spaces. Several participating OPEN pop-ups have gone on to sign long-term business leases elsewhere downtown, such as like Eye Candy Boutique (Houston Street Garage building), Bird & Pear and Huipil Market (both at La Villita).
Elsa Fernandez, owner of Eye Candy Boutique, launched her plus-size fashion store online before she applied for the OPEN program in May 2015.
“The (OPEN market) was my first time popping up and introducing the (clothes and accessories to shoppers in person),” Fernandez said. “It was really helpful because it helped me to get my audience downtown and really test the concept for Eye Candy Boutique.”
Following her success with the OPEN pop-ups, Fernandez applied for a storefront opportunity with the program in fall 2015. Eye Candy Boutique was selected as the first vendor to open for business at 531 Navarro St.—a previously vacant space owned by the city—and allowed Fernandez to operate as a brick-and-mortar, rent-free for 90 days.
Fernandez’s quality fashion and fun accessories quickly found a loyal customer base, and eventually led to her signing a long-term lease with the city. The program has helped her create a strong network of local small businesses that help each other grow.
"Thanks to OPEN, we’ve been able to expand the retail downtown in a way that hasn't happened before … to be here now, downtown, for three years, and to see the landscape changing, and see the (urban core) revitalized—it's an incredible thing," Fernandez said.
The program currently hosts two pop-ups inside the Book building at 140 E. Houston Street. Her Hippie Heart specializes in boho decor, while Pink & Silver Fashion offers one-of-a-kind, handmade clothing and accessories. The shops planned to close earlier this fall but thanks to popular demand, they will remain open until the last week of December. Their hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays- Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.