December 8, 2013

Pop-ups purvey crafts, ‘Skowhegiana’

A jail-turned-gristmill in Skowhegan is home to retailers who rent space for as little as a single day.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN — The executive director of Main Street Skowhegan quickly scooped up a ceramic mug with a ghoulish image and the words “Skowhegan Zombieland” when he saw it at the new pop-up store in downtown.

click image to enlarge

Iver Lofving sits inside an anidrosis box at his pop-up store in the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan, where for two weeks he plans to sell a variety of unusual and locally themed items. The box was used in the 19th century to induce patient to perspire and induce healing.

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

The director, Dugan Murphy, bought it for $18.

Murphy said he also liked the downtown Skowhegan streetscape pictured on the blue mug and designed by local artist Iver Lofving, whose studio occupies a pop-up shop at the Skowhegan Grist Mill until Dec. 15.

A pop-up store is a marketing concept in which a retailer can market-test a product or a service for a day, a week or a month. Lofving has it for two weeks.

Artisans selling handmade knits, hand-crafted wooden items, fabric creations and bead work rented the pop-up during the last week of November and plan to return during the week of Dec. 16.

One of the artisans, Mimosa Mack of Skowhegan, said she and the other women involved in the store did better than expected selling knitted hats, scarves and wooden cutting boards.

She said the experience at the pop-up shop was definitely worthwhile for her and her sister Amanda Slamm, of Solon.

“We sold a lot of the little (wooden) spreaders and spatulas. Those were about $6 to $10 each, but were the majority of our sales,” Mack said. “We sold a half dozen cutting boards and a few of our mineral oil and beeswax paste jars.”

One of the crafters, Peggy Lovejoy, said the women easily made the $100 rent – and more – for the week they were in the pop-up store and had fun meeting people as the holiday season got going.

Lofving, 54, an art teacher at Skowhegan Area High School, is displaying and selling lots of quirky merchandise. He calls part of the collection Skowhegiana – like Americana, only with a Skowhegan theme.

Lofving said word is getting around about the pop-up store and visitor numbers have increased each day. He’s got old photos and memorabilia, Skowhegan postcards, local paintings of the iconic Skowhegan falls and antique guest guides of Skowhegan from a time when it was a hub of hotels and horse-drawn carriages on elm tree-lined streets.

He’s also got an anidrosis box, a kind of 19th-century quack- medicine sweat lodge. It is a sauna-like wooden crate used to help a person perspire before receiving a rubdown with an ointment of alcohol and opium to soothe ailments.

The box, made and sold by a Dr. S.F. Conant, who ran an Anidrosis Sanitorium on Elm Street in Skowhegan, is for sale at the pop-up for $150 – or best offer, Lofving said. “I’m always looking around for cool things,” he added.

Elise Rich-Colton, owner of Grand Central Cafe in Waterville, said she and a friend popped into the pop-up on a recent afternoon after seeing a flier.

“I didn’t know what to expect, and walking in and seeing the crazy (anidrosis box) seat set up, that was something else,” she said.

The store also features jewelry made by Lofving’s wife, Maili Lani Bailey; knickknacks; and oddball collectibles.

The 150-square-foot storefront is on the municipal parking lot side of the Somerset Grist Mill, next to the Pickup Cafe. Rental costs for the Skowhegan pop-up are $50 a day, $100 a week and $350 a month.

Store hours for the Iver Studio are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

The storefront is in a former jail guard’s office at the converted county jail, which Amber Lambke, of Skowhegan, and partner Michael Scholz, of Albion, bought in 2009. The former jail is now a gristmill producing whole-grain flour and rolled oats. There also is a yarn shop and a technology classroom offering computer advice.

Pop-up stores began in the 1990s in large cities such as Tokyo, London, Los Angeles and New York, and soon spread to smaller communities, Lambke said when she first offered the space for rent.

Lambke said a pop-up in Skowhegan is a good way test the local market for any number of items without having to rent a storefront for a year.

Pop-up shops are not new in Maine.

In November 2012, a downtown revitalization program in Gardiner offered three vacant storefronts, rent-free, for the holiday season. They called it Project Pop-Up.

In Biddeford, Delilah Poupore, executive director of Heart of Biddeford, another Main Street Maine program, said the group held a Youth Pop Up Challenge in 2011. Two other pop-ups were established in Biddeford to do test marketing for retail clothing stores. Both spaces ultimately were filled.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

dharlow@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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