Pop-up businesses could be the answer to improve Delaware’s economy [video]

The solution to empty store fronts and cultivating small businesses may be the pop-up store.

As the shopping season fast approaches, small businesses are popping up just in time for people to splurge on gifts throughout the state in stores from New Castle to Sussex Counties.

In Milton, three of four vacant storefronts in its downtown district are now filled with businesses breathing life into buildings that were once empty.  Project Pop-Up is behind the trend of the new stores thanks to the Delaware Economic Development Office that introduced the concept almost three years ago.

Ten new businesses have opened on the 100 Block of 9th Street in Wilmington but most of them are on a short term basis and are located in an incubator venue.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Amber Shader Photography who also owns First and Little Baby Boutique is considered the poster child for Project Pop-Up. The DEDO program helped Shader make Middletown her business home.

“It really helps if you’re already an established business, maybe you’re making the transition from a home base business to a brick and mortar in a town location really helps to have that foundation,” Shader said.

Shader sets a good example for the two dozen other small businesses that have come through the program. To date, 22 of those pop-ups are still operational.

“We would like to continue to invest in the program because it is a proven tool to grow small business, DEDO’s Diane Laird said.

According to Laird, Project Pop-Up offers small business entrepreneurs rent free space for the first three months. However, a lot more goes into the process before getting to that point.

“Really it’s a six month project we start in June, we talk with our main street towns and also our commercial district affiliated towns,” Laird said.

In Smyrna, a vacancy next to Royal Treatments Draperies and Decor allowed the owners to expand and offer a wider range of gifts to keep shoppers in that area.

“The opportunity came available for us to take the spot next store. We wanted to move the gift items and add cards because we wanted to make it simple for people who wanted to buy gifts and not go to two or three places,” said Karen Gill of Royal Treatments.

Gill who recently opened Smyrna Cards and Gifts always had high hopes for her business that opened in 2013 but the fast growth sort of shocked her.

“When we opened our doors October 1st I expected probably two or three years we would be to the point where we are now but it took one [year],” Gill said.

Further south in Milford, one of the newest pop-ups is hoping to have that kind of success as well.

“I consider myself a cake tailor,” said Latricia Vicks, owner of Patty Cakes.

Patty Cakes bakery is gearing up to open this month after running a consultation space in Dover that didn’t allow baking on the premises. Project Pop-Up seemed to be perfect fit for Latricia Vicks who decided not to jump at the opportunity when she first discovered it last year.

“When it came out this year I said I think I’m in the good spot I’m ready to move. I see growth and it’s time for me to get in a storefront,” Vicks said.

For more information about Project Pop-Up, the Delaware Economic Development Office encourages people to go online.

Tune into ‘First’ tonight at 5:30p.m and again at 11p.m to hear from entrepeneurs who dared to pop-up with their businesses.


WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal