pop-up #3: boston!
A Location Bust
After an overnight 18 hour drive from Cincinnati, we pulled into the Natick Mall parking lot and scoped out the new space. It was a Monday afternoon at 3PM and we were excited by what we saw: the parking lot was packed! We went inside to use the bathroom and understood why it was such a popular place to be! The interior was beautiful and the excitement gave us the extra boost of energy we needed to unhitch the Airstream and move our things into storage before crashing for a much needed long night of sleep.
We spent the week preparing for the pop-up store for the following weekend, being sure we had all of our i’s dotted and t’s crossed! A local spot called Muffinhouse Cafe offered to provide some pastries and treats for our pop-up and Saxonville Mills Cafe and Roastery donated coffee for the event. After seeing how crowded it was on a Monday, we foresaw Friday-Sunday being even busier and wrapped double as many socks as usual to prepare. On Friday, we got there extra early to beat the crowds. By 9AM, the Airstream doors were open and we were ready and waiting for the line of people we’d anticipated, eager for socks.
By noon, one person had stopped by. At 3PM, the count rose to two, though the second visitor seemingly only came for the heating lamp. By dinner time, our third and final visitor made the first purchase of the day. He was the mall’s valet driver who had watched our pop-up throughout the day.
Trying to stay positive, we set up early again on Saturday hoping for a better turnout over the weekend. We played our music louder and positioned our chalkboard signs in more trafficked areas, but despite our best efforts we had the same experience as the day before. Our designated space was about 100 ft from a busy entrance, and we weren’t successfully luring people over.
Calling an Audible
We’d planned to stay in Boston for three weeks, but it was clear that our mall pop-up was failing. Quickly changing strategy, we began outreach to local businesses to see if we could set up in higher foot-trafficked areas.
Tech Square in Cambridge was the first location added to the calendar. Through door-to-door flyering, we’d secured coffee and pastries from Area Four and had an event announcement distributed to all Tech Square business tenants. Just as we began to feel good about how things were coming together, we saw the weather forecast for the week. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday predicted clear, sunny skies. Wednesday: cloudy, chilly, and 90% chance of afternoon rain showers.
Determined the show would go on despite the weather (we had a one-day event permit from the city), we dressed in weatherproof gear and arrived as scheduled, Airstream in tow. With steady-light rain coming down, we began step one: opening the awning, ”squeeeeeeeeek.” It wouldn’t budge past a few inches. After dozens of attempts and failed troubleshooting, we swallowed our pride and continued the set-up. Without the awning, we were fully exposed and our display was getting steadily soaked, but to our surprise, dozens of people stood in the cold rain to support.
UMass Sock Drop
After the cold soak, we were excited to give away socks on behalf of the people who supported us despite the less than ideal conditions. In full-gowns, face masks, and gloves, we delivered donated pairs to children throughout the hospital. One boy was so inspired by Naaman’s penguin waddle that he took off his hospitals socks, slipped Naaman’s on, and showed us his best version of Naaman’s signature move. We’ll be sure to recall that moment on the next rainy day when we need a bit of motivation.
A Weather Foe and Battery Woe
After the success of our previous trip to Cambridge, we connected with a local food joint, The Smoke Shop BBQ, to plan a special Giving Tuesday pop-up. Jack Frost, however, had other plans, and iIn typical New England fashion, Sunday and Monday brought a mix of snow and sleet. To add insult to injury, the Airstream battery was completely fried. Naturally, the nearest specialized batteries we needed were two hours away. It was 7pm by the time we tracked them down and returned to the Airstream and subsequently began the YouTube quest: “How do you install two batteries in series?”
After a few how-to videos, frozen fingers, and scary sparks, we had battery power! There was little time for celebration, though, because it was now 10 pm and the 23’ Airstream was blocked in by a pile of snow nearly three times its size.
Picking up the shovel, we attacked the snow with vengeance (a little pent-up frustration maybe??). Progress was coming slowly - we had barely made a dent relative to the size of the pile. And just then, an angel appeared in the form of a CAT loader - the snow removal team had come just in the nick of time. Working swiftly, the CAT guy cleared more snow than we could’ve even if we’d stayed all night. Phew. At 12AM, we called it a night and put in for some shut eye before our pop-up at Smoke Shop BBQ the following morning.
Smoke Shop BBQ is in the heart of Cambridge, which meant morning traffic was pretty much guaranteed. Getting the Airstream into the courtyard required backing it in across two lanes of a crowded street. We woke up at 5AM to get the trailer situated downtown, but an hour and at least a dozen attempts later, we were still no closer to parking it.
A nearby construction worker saw our failures and provided some insight - we needed to start in lane of opposing traffic so we could swing the Airstream more widely and back into the narrow spot. SUCCESS! We thanked him with socks and began setting up for the day. Staying open through 7:30PM, we finished our best day yet, the theme of resilience surfacing yet again.