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Mobile business 'settles down' for the holidays at pop-up store

Joseph Thomas DeBello, co-owner of mobile boutique Hitch

Joseph Thomas DeBello, co-owner of mobile boutique Hitch LI, opened a holiday pop-up store on Wednesday in Massapequa. Credit: Newsday / Daysi Calavia-Robertson

For two years Joseph Thomas DeBello, co-owner of mobile boutique Hitch LI, has been hitching the 1964 Shasta camper-turned-store to the back of his car and vending at craft fairs and other events on Long Island. 

Now the Babylon Village entrepreneur and his business partner have set up shop inside a brick and mortar retail space at 1027A Park Blvd. in Massapequa.

"But only for the holidays," he said. "The idea behind the holiday pop-up shop was to do what we do inside Hitch, which is to showcase local vendors, but on a much larger scale, and to test the water on whether or not the business would be sustainable inside a traditional store year-round."

DeBello, 31, who owns and operates Hitch LI with his high school best friend Justina Di Maggio, 32, of Massapequa, said the 1,100-square-foot holiday store that opened last week will stay open through the end of December.  

At Hitch's Holiday Market consumers can peruse hand-crafted products from about 40 Long Island makers of candles, soaps, greeting cards, jewelry, art and home decor. Select items of clothing such as thick faux-fur sweaters, trendy jumpsuits and T-shirts that read "Long Island Guy" and "Woke up for mimosas" are also at the store. 

Items start at $5 for a vegan lip scrub made by Smidgeworks, a Bellmore business, and go as high as $385 for an exotic wood bench by Ennis & Co., a Ronkonkoma-based woodworking company. 

John Mercer, senior analyst at Coresight Research, a Manhattan-based research firm, said "brick and mortar retailers need to offer something different from e-commerce—and unique, locally made product is one means of doing so." 

Hitch LI's holiday market venture "fits into a trend of more pop-up stores and the diversification of the retail space to include more event spaces and offerings from digital-first brands and nonretail tenants," he said. 

Vendors paid a one-time fee for display space in the pop-up store: $250 for a single shelf, $600 for table or rack space. Some items are also sold on consignment, with Hitch taking 50 percent of the sale price. 

Ann Marie Inglese, owner of mobile women's fashion boutique Lola's Lookbook, which operates out of a UPS-sized truck, purchased a $600 clothing rack to showcase garments at the pop-up store.

"I thought it was such a cool concept for us, as local vendors, to come together under one roof," she said. "I see it as as another way to advertise my mobile boutique and draw people from the pop-up back to the truck." 

She says customers who found out about her company at DeBello's pop-up shop have already contacted her asking for more information about shopping in her mobile store. 

"We've been open for five days, and most vendors have already made their money back," DeBello said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story, based on information given to Newsday,  included incorrect details about Smidgeworks. 

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