As the title of James and Karla Murray’s much-lauded coffee-table book, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York (Ginko, $65), suggested with its release last January, the recession has wreaked havoc on the Big Apple’s merchant landscape. One of the more Darwinian adaptations to this collapse has been the outbreak of pop-up shops, those publicity-friendly, novelty-driven, “here this weekend, gone the next” retail concepts that offer vendors the opportunity to liquidate products with little to no overhead. What these pop-ups often lack, however, is any real connection to the communities they besiege. Fortunately, a growing number of revolving storefronts have filled this void with interactive installations that offer everything from impromptu wedding chapels and utterly unique clothing boutiques from local designers to single car “drive-in” movie theaters and annual Ping-Pong tourneys.TRENDS
METROPOLITAN GREEN, BROOKLYN
The most recent addition to this growing trend, Metropolitan Green, opened in December with a brick-and-mortar incarnation of the Williamsburg-based online clothing boutique Hickoree’s Hard Goods, followed by an exhibition of local artists examining the relationships between humans and nature by Manhattan art gallery Heskin Contemporary. Developed by Dutch-born designer Mark Helder, Metropolitan Green is almost a space that wasn’t. “At first I was just looking for a standard five-year lease,” says Helder, who spent three years building the eco-friendly space, which houses two single-family duplexes above the storefront, and a skylighted basement office for himself beneath. “We got a lot of offers, but it was too much work to just sell out.”
Instead, he teamed up with Angela Silva, a local art director who’s worked for the likes of Puma and J.Crew to create an “inventable space” that caters to all kinds of community- and eco-minded tenants. “Right away I thought Hickoree’s would be perfect,” says Silva of the work wear–inspired e-shop (a favorite of New York fashion editors), which used the monthlong residency as a dry run for a future retail store. “It’s less of a space for lease than a marketing and PR service for companies,” adds Silva, who manages the building’s storefront operations. “And we wanted to take it one step further with people contributing to the neighborhood.”
With that in mind, this spring Metropolitan Green is looking to team up with a New York publishing house for a nonprofit bookstore where people can trade books and hold readings with local writers, as well as collaborating with the indie bicycle manufacturer Freeman Transport on a gentleman’s cycling clubhouse that could offer tuning classes and perhaps even a collaboration with aspiring Brooklyn architects on a neighborhood bike rack. “You’re not just buying into a space here,” Silva says. “Anything goes. It could be a weekend project or a monthlong store. The possibilities are truly limitless.” www.metgreen.withtank.com
+ THREE MORE1. GRAND OPENING This Lower East Side spot, launched in 2007 (by brothers/designers Ben and Hall Smyth), has hawked relocated timber-frame barns, been turned into a drive-in theater (with a ’65 Ford Falcon convertible for seats) and served as the beloved Pong table tennis parlor, among numerous other kitschy iterations. Look out for interactive scotch tastings and even an urban camping concept later this year. www.grandopening.org
2. 303 GRAND The brainchild of Boston’s alt marketing agency Street Attack, this year-old Williamsburg storefront has hosted bake and garage sales, fashion and brand launches, even a pop-up wedding chapel last June (one month before Grand Opening followed suit). Get ready for “Genius,” an exhibit honoring some of the most creative minds throughout history, plus a live video game tournament this month.
3. DEN Though it’s less conceptual than a pop-up wedding chapel, this offshoot of Manhattan’s vaunted Odin menswear boutiques is just as unique, with scores of cutting-edge designers (Tim Hamilton, Shipley & Halmos, Richard Chai) showcasing their collections in fully customized spaces for limited windows of time. Later this year, they’ll be reopening in a new location, so stay tuned for details. www.dennewyork.com