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Pop-ups create opportunities for entrepreneurs

Over the last three years, we have seen vacant retail spaces in downtown Duluth filled with pop-up shops during the holiday season. That list of available spaces was quite long in our first year as we ended up filling a dozen empty storefronts. In recent years, the list of available space has diminished. This means we have been fortunate to see more retailers signing leases in our downtown.

And what's even more encouraging is that we have seen pop-up shops become longer-term tenants in our downtown. The recent announcement that Solve Entertainment has signed on as a second-floor tenant at the 120 East Superior St. building in the Historic Arts and Theater District is a prime example of our pop-up program helping entrepreneurs get started. Not only did this help them get started, but it also helped them grow. Solve provides 60 minutes for individuals to work as a team to solve a puzzle or mystery and escape the room. This form of escape room is a growing national trend for live-action entertainment and it will be a perfect fit for our HART District.

But Solve isn't the only pop-up that remains in storefront space in our downtown. We also have Whimsy, Pichardo, Lester River Trading Company and Studio 15. These entrepreneurs have taken steps to move their business to the next level, and with the support of our community they will continue to succeed.

One of the great traits that make downtowns unique is that they are comprised of entrepreneurs. It's where many businesses get their start. It's where businesses find their niche. And we are proud to celebrate our locally grown businesses.

The Greater Downtown Council is pleased to play a small role in creating opportunities for our young entrepreneurs. Thanks to the generous support of our property owners, we have been able to provide free, temporary space in vacant storefronts. It's been a way to activate otherwise empty spaces and give someone a chance to test the market during the holiday season.

We're looking forward to offering the pop-up program again this year. We won't be able to identify locations until early fall, but it's never too early to start planning. So, if you are an entrepreneur wanting to try out a storefront location, get in touch with the GDC to get your name on the list for consideration. Great things can happen when we all work together.

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549 or by email at

Kristi Stokes

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549.