The retail incubator program, Project: PopUp, is coming to a close at the end of February. Along with partners, Berry & Hunt and Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, River City Company launched this program in the spring of 2012 with the goal of allowing five budding business owners to test out their concept for six months rent free in the hopes of signing a long term lease at the program’s end. Along with $95,000 in rent assistance, business owners received facade grants, $20,000 in creative marketing for the program duration, $25,000 of general support as well as 15 hours per business in professional development classes led by successful local entrepreneurs and businesses.
With the official grand opening in September 2012, the 800 Block of Chestnut Street has seen a retail resurgence from the five tenants: Tasty Daylight Donuts, O. C. Buckels & Co., Sewn to the Sky, Iron Labs and Go Bagel. Four of the five are staying in their Chestnut Street locations after the program’s official end, and the program has produced approximately 30 jobs/internships.
“As a participant in Project: PopUp, we are delighted to have a downtown location which would not be possible at this time without the assistance from the program,” as stated by Tony McInnis, owner of Tasty Daylight Donuts.
Steve Hunt, managing partner at Berry & Hunt, said, “Project: PopUp provided an opportunity for revitalizing a great block in our downtown core and allowed some exceptional locals to try their hand at owning a business. This is a great compliment to the long-established businesses in that same block.”
Blair Waddell, retail recruiter for River City Company, said, “Consistent with our overall strategy of recruiting retail to City Center, Project: PopUp has given Chattanooga several new retail and eating destinations and has sparked promising interest in this part of downtown. We are excited about prospects, from new to existing retailers, to move into City Center and be a part of the creative energy stemming from this program.”
Project: PopUp was also a draw for the move of Elea Blake Cosmetics from their Frazier Avenue location to The Shoppes at CitiPark between O.C. Buckels & Co and Sewn to the Sky. Also, parking improvements have been made to the attached garage to make parking and validation convenient for tenants, shoppers and visitors.
“Project: PopUp further highlights the strong entrepreneurial and small business movement thriving in Chattanooga and provided another example of the great relationship between existing Chattanooga businesses and the Chattanooga community as a whole,” said Dana Perry, managing shareholder at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel.
With the success of Project: PopUp, River City Company hopes to conduct another round of this retail incubator in the future in a different area of downtown that could use a retail infusion.