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Artists seek pop-up venues in unoccupied Northport retail spaces

Kate Sydney, left, and Jennifer Lau, co-owners of

Kate Sydney, left, and Jennifer Lau, co-owners of The Firefly Artists, and Dan Paige, executive director of the Northport Arts Coalition, in Northport on June 20, 2015. The groups want landlords with vacant space to open for pop-up stores. Credit: Benjamin Petit

The Northport Arts Coalition and The Firefly Artists have put out an open call to Northport landlords who may be interested in donating unoccupied spaces for pop-up shops.

Dan Paige, executive director of the nonprofit coalition, said the formula helped a local business find a tenant this month; and it would be easy to recreate the project's success if another opportunity came along.

"We have the infrastructure set up, and we got it together so quickly," Paige said.

In recent years, more and more villages have collaborated with local artists to decorate barren facades.

Property owner Dennis Tannenbaum donated his space as a temporary pop-up shop to showcase work by community artists, instead of papering the windows when a longtime tenant moved out of his Northport storefront at 77 Main St. The shop has been operating Friday-Sunday for the month of June, and July 3-5 will be its last weekend displaying and selling 450 works from 38 local artists.

"A lot of materials are available if a landlord provides them [artists] with a canvas," Tannenbaum said.

Pop-ups have emerged in recent years as temporary shops intended for short-term use of retail spaces.

He connected with the coalition in May and suggested they use his Main Street shop as a pop-up gallery on a month-by-month basis until it was rented. Tannenbaum envisioned a gallery where local painters, sculptors, photographers and other artists could showcase and sell their work.

Paige said they "pulled it together in a week or so. I put out a call to artists. Within 48 hours, I had more art than I could fit in the space."

Kate Sydney and Jennifer Lau, co-owners of The Firefly Artists, a retail gallery in Northport, provided input on setting up and managing the store.

Since the June 5 opening, it has sold 41 pieces for a total of $2,148.

"It's been great for both our brand recognition and for artists that are part of our gallery," Sydney said. She and Lau had their employees staff the pop-up.

Setup, including creating postcards and other promotional materials, totaled about $400, plus the additional cost in man hours. Artists receive 70 percent of sales, with 20 percent going to Firefly and 10 percent to the coalition.

"We want to promote as many artists as we can and introduce them to customers and help their businesses thrive," Lau said.

For Tannenbaum, it was a chance to support local artists. As a village resident, he said he felt a responsibility to keep the space on the village's main drag attractive so it wouldn't detract from surrounding businesses.

The idea also made sense: having a visually stunning space would make renting the store much easier, he said.

The plan worked. He leased the space starting mid-July, and the pop-up gallery is to close after next weekend. Tannenbaum said keeping the storefront attractive and busy "absolutely" contributed to renting it out quickly.

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