In downtown San Jose, four pop-up shops have annexed a side of the San Pedro Square Market Parking Garage. The new spaces house budding local makers and will change vendors every three and a half months, giving the shops a vibe that is somewhere between a tent at an arts festival and a hip boutique.
MOMENT is the result of a Cities Challenge grant from the Knight Foundation. The San Jose Downtown Association applied for the grant and oversaw the construction of the space while San Jose Made, an organization dedicated to supporting local creators and small businesses, coordinated the vendors.
Why pop-up shops and not something more permanent? Kevin Biggers, chief strategist of San Jose Made, said his organization and MOMENT are all about embracing the ephemeral. The shops’ transience enables MOMENT to showcase a stream of retailers and plays into the ultimate goal of kickstarting their success. This explains the all-caps, impactful name: “[The name] represents…their moment, their next leap as a small business,” Biggers said.
But there is another reason too. MOMENT is part of a trend of pop-up shops that wants to turn retail into an event. They are competing with online shopping by focusing on what it doesn’t have: a location. “The same way you feel about going on vacation is the same way we want you to feel about experiencing our pop-ups,” Biggers said. “We want this to feel like a destination, and the only way to really do that is to keep it dynamic…My job would be a lot easier if these tenants were in here for a year or two years at a time, but would it be as fun? I mean, definitely not.”
Here’s a look at the vendors currently in MOMENT
After several years of attending craft shows in San Francisco and Oakland, Fractal Flora has brought their greenery home to San Jose. They run a small shop in Japantown and have appeared in San Jose Made markets, but MOMENT, with its high-traffic location, is their largest local exposure yet.
Fractal Flora’s shop transforms the bare space into a lush, comforting array of browns and greens, with mellow music flowing out of a speaker in the corner. The enterprise’s mission of soothing through nature is palpable. “There’s this intrinsic value of being connected to nature. It’s really stress relieving,” Sarah Lim, the cofounder of Fractal Flora, said. “[Plants] don’t require much from you.”
The shop sells pre-potted plants, but if customers want, they can select their plant and pot separately and have them put together in the store. There is also a station where customers can build their own mini-terrariums. “If you can learn to take care of one simple plant, you’ll learn to take care of the natural world around you,” Lim said. “We think that it all starts with building this emotional connection with this one thing you make.”
Sea Señorita Studios
When Sofia Arredondo is not making and selling her work, she teaches art at Lincoln High School in San Jose. She has made the rounds at local festivals, whether they be for San Jose Made or Día de los Muertos, but, as it is for the other vendors, MOMENT is her first long-term, physical location.
The Sea in Sea Señorita Studios represents both the ocean and Arredondo’s initials. Her work, which is inspired by her Chicana background, features images like Frida Kahlo’s face or a shark in the style of a lotería card with the words “el tiburón” beneath it. Arredondo has been using the space to practice running a storefront instead of a tent, but she also has a small studio inside and a section set aside for featuring other artists from around the Bay Area.
Arredondo said the shop also helps her show her students what she does outside of the classroom. “A lot of them have come by to see the space…They’re like, ‘You did all of this?’ I’m like, ‘Yes! What do you think I spend all of my free time doing? It’s making art.’”
In the early years of her yoga studio, Live Lotus, Sarah Coronado taught most of the classes, leaving her with little time to change clothes in between teaching and picking up her kids from school. She wanted an undergarment she could change without having to fully remove her pants and shoes; Blooms Privé is her answer. Coronado, also the entrepreneur behind Lotus Premium Denim, a pair of jeans modeled for the average-height woman, designed the panties to be high-performance with a clasp on the side for easy removal.
Blooms Privé’s shop in MOMENT carries the startup’s panties and Lotus Premium Denim’s jeans, both of which launched after successful Kickstarter campaigns. Marie Coronado, the director of sales for Live Lotus and Sarah’s sister-in-law, said they are using the space to test out their products and see what interests customers. “It’s just very exciting and new,” she said. “We’re really grateful to be a part of this.”
Marie also plans to connect the MOMENT shop to the yoga studio by hosting classes within the space. Eventually, she hopes that the retail sales can supplant the income from the studio, allowing them to offer classes for as low a price as possible. “I really believe that wellness should be free,” she said.
Bobo Design Studio
Angie Chua’s story may resonate with Silicon Valley’s creative hopefuls. Once a worker in digital advertising, Chua started selling her custom bags, badges, and apparel online and eventually left her job to pursue her passion full time. MOMENT is Chua’s first move away from ecommerce and she has brought her dog, Harriet, the store’s manager, with her.
Bobo Design Studio’s most popular items are its patterned tote bags, according to Chua, which she produces on a sewing machine in the corner of the shop when she isn’t busy chatting with customers. It also sells small pouches and leather keychains, all hand cut and sewn by Chua, and shirts and pins with her designs on them. Chua said she wants to make “products that excite people about everyday adventure and travel, but also have a sense of nostalgia.” She added, “I’m a firm believer that sometimes the best memories are your own mental vacation.”
Written by Justin Sun
Photography by Arabela Espinoza