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The anatomy of a pop-up store

Flowering Rock has popped up on Charles Street to sell teas and other items for a short period of time.
Evan McGlinn for The Boston Globe
Flowering Rock has popped up on Charles Street to sell teas and other items for a short period of time.

On Beacon Hill, he’s known as “the pop-up guy.”

For the second year in a row, Michael Hunter has swooped into town with a sleighful of style.

In an empty storefront on Charles Street, he lays out a spread of Homburg hats, vintage leather bags, and outrageous gauntlets. From the Italian scarf bar, to the silk wrap dresses, to the edgy paintings, it’s hard to believe that Piknik Art and Apparel went up in just two days.


“It’s sort of a retail flash mob,” said Hunter, who transported a pop-up version of his Edgartown boutique to the tony Boston neighborhood for November and December.

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Shops that pop up for a short spell during the holidays add zing and excitement to a street. It’s almost a kind of overnight magic — instant business theater. Where vacancy reigned, fresh retail energy and choices rule, for a while at least.

Some pop-up stores resemble art installations. Others look like established boutiques, or, as with Holiday 2.0, opening Saturday on Newbury Street, feel like an invite-only bash.

Aubrie Pagano, owner of online dressmaker Bow and Drape, joins local fashion-forward start-ups Project Repat and Ministry of Supply in a third-floor walkup for Holiday 2.0.

Transforming an empty retail space into a “winter wonderland-meets-tech” zone for two weeks required expertise.


These Harvard and MIT 20-somethings found a stylist and creative director to develop a concept that’s both cohesive and playful.

White Christmas lights and reclaimed wood, paired with Instagram-inspired images illustrating how their products are made, will spruce up the space.

Project Repat, which makes blankets out of vintage T-shirts, encourages customers to bring in their favorite tees or buy some here to learn how the company works.

Bow and Drape will help women create dresses online and Ministry of Supply will illustrate the NASA technology behind its Apollo shirt, which will be for sale.

Because all three are e-commerce companies, Holiday 2.0 is their first real retail experience.


“It’s a great concept for brands that can’t afford to get into a long-term lease,” said Elizabeth McGarry, creative director for Boston branding agency McGarry & Sons.

‘People like to be in the know. There’s something cool about [pop-up stores]. Consumers are still hungry to get out and about and experience something.’

For the consumer, pop-up shops have an underground allure.

“People like to be in the know. There’s something cool about them,” said McGarry, who is helping Holiday 2.0 find its footing. “Consumers are still hungry to get out and about and experience something.”

That experience doesn’t have to revolve around clothing or hostess gifts. In the South End, the sisters behind Purefections chocolate have turned part of their brother’s interior design office, Bill Trifone Interiors on Tremont Street, into a chocolate shop till Christmas Eve.

To make the space pop, owners Christina Bartkus and Lisa Trifone hired a sign company to produce an adhesive version of their logo. With white walls and large cocoa lettering, the store has a clean urban elan. Try their holiday hit: P2C2. That’s Belgian chocolate with caramel, peanut butter, and salted potato chip crunch. Assortments are packed in chocolate-colored hat boxes.

Meanwhile, the Revere Hotel on Fridays is hosting Pop It Like It’s Hot. Somerville’s Taza Chocolate has teamed up with the hotel’s chef for a gourmet cocoa throwdown through the holidays. In a corner of this sleek lobby, maple bacon and ginger white hot chocolate are keeping tourists and locals toasty and happy.

Back on Charles Street, another beverage is being unveiled till the end of the month at yet another pop-up retailer.

Customers who wander into Flowering Rock experience a fresh concept in tea. Since Black Friday, these medicinal, herbal concoctions made with sage, chamomile, and sideritis from the mountains of Greece are available for purchase. Just in time for the holidays, of course.

Bostonians Natasha and Konrad Makowski sell a variety of styles named after the muses and found in a soothing, rented space. Accented by potted lavender and lemon trees, the long room radiates well-being and tranquillity.

To make the space feel less spartan and more spa-like, the former gallery owners had to be clever.

They designed and hung black and white panels of dancing muses along the walls. And that center table filled with jars of herbs? “Those are our office desks lined up with a tarp on top,” admits Konrad Makowski.

That here-today-gone-tomorrow ethos is the hidden power of the pop-up.

Hunter, who styles fashion shoots for companies like Pendleton, loves it.

“I’m used to production. There’s set-up time and strike,” he said. “It’s very kamikaze.”

Such impermanence adds excitement. After all, you can’t mull that smashing tweed frock with the silver bow at Piknik too long because, come Dec. 31, the whimsical pop-up will disappear.

“I’m like Keyser Soza,” said Hunter. “Poof, I’ll be gone.”

Kathleen Pierce can be reached at