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10 tips on how to turn your vintage pop-up into a permanent store
A pop-up can act as a testing ground for your permanent location. Photo: MART production/Pexels

10 tips on how to turn your vintage pop-up into a permanent store


Jolande Amoraal, founder of good market thrift store, shares how she used a pop-up shop as a proving ground for her newly opened permanent location

It’s the dream of many a vintage slinger: a retail space to call your own. When Jolande Amoraal, founder of Good market thrift store (stylized as good market thrift store), finally landed a lease in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood after a year of searching, she turned the dream into her reality.

Good market thrift store opened at 912 Queen Street East on May 31, just six months after Jolande ran a month-long pop-up shop nearby.

“Overconsumption and overproduction of clothing has had a really negative impact on our environment, so I’m really excited to keep advocating for better shopping habits, and taking better care of our clothing,” she says.

Working with what she already had and managing her expectations of what the store would look like in its early days, Jolande was able to open her bricks-and-mortar about three weeks after signing the lease.

good market thrift store - back counter with shop sign and clothing in foreground
good market thrift store photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

Despite the tight budget, the store is still very much hers.

Wicker pendant lamps hang from the ceiling. A massive salvaged retail counter from beloved boho brand Free People commands space at the back. Vintage shelving units overflow with leather purses and colourful woven textiles.

And with no less than seven shoppers browsing on the first Sunday afternoon Good market thrift store is open, vintage finds and pre-loved clothing from brands as varied as Ann Taylor and Anthropologie are flying off the racks as quickly as Jolande can replace them.

good market thrift store - Jolande Amoraal in front of sign
Jolande Amoraal, founder, good market thrift store. Photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

But how did she get here? Jolande scaled from online storefront to pop-up shop to permanent location in just over three years.

She’s been in business before. She founded and now co-owns a professional volleyball league, is a member of venture-capital firm Coralus (formerly SheEO) that helps fund businesses run by women and non-binary people, and graduated from fashion business and graphic design at Humber College.

“I’m very aware of the experiences that I’ve had to make me into the person I am today,” she says.  

For the evolution of Good market thrift store, Jolande knew it was important to surround herself with business advisors and shop owners who could guide her. The pop-up in particular was the critical research she needed to ensure her bricks-and-mortar has the best chance of success.

If you’re considering venturing into physical-shop territory, Jolande shares the steps she took to make her pop-up shop a retail reality.

1. Pick a primary revenue stream as the backbone of your business.

As a reseller, you can be in many places at once — markets, booths, in-store, online. But deciding on a main outlet for your business, and planning in detail what its growth over time might look like, will maximize your return on investment.

Jolande was working full-time when she started Good market thrift store as a side gig in December 2019. Her business launched online which, at the height of the pandemic, was the only option at the time.

While Jolande focused her efforts on e-commerce, she was simultaneously assessing the market landscape to figure out where her shop might best fit long-term: her own website, e-marketplaces or retail.

“There are lots of people who are selling full-time on Poshmark and eBay alone,” she says. “They don’t have their own website. So that was one angle.”

“But it is a really tough business to scale really fast because you have so much competition, and the demands of the Internet are changing. Every day, there’s always a new SEO term that you need to know. And you’re constantly updating your listings.”

In-person shopping had all but stopped, but still, Jolande started to think about what a retail store might look like.

“I knew it would come back. People are tactile, social shoppers,” she says. “I felt like there’s so much more opportunity to grow a business in a retail environment than just solely online. The safer next step — even though it’s a larger investment — felt like the retail experience. I was set on creating a business plan based off of that.”

That gave her a goal to work toward — even though she still plans to cross-list inventory on Grailed, Poshmark, eBay and Depop, and maintain the shoppable website she built in 2021, alongside her retail shop.

good market thrift store - interior store shot looking into circle mirror
good market thrift store photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

2. Be willing to take a risk.

Making the leap from online to in-person requires a mindset shift. There are more upfront costs to running a pop-up or permanent retail shop, meaning you need to be willing to take a chance on yourself, whether that’s by jumping head-first into networking, getting a loan or becoming more comfortable with being front and centre in your business.

“I am, by personality type, a risk taker and I’m very bold,” says Jolande. “There are ways to mitigate your risk and also experiment without quitting your job. You don’t have to do that right off the bat.”

Before you try out a semi-permanent solution like a retail pop-up or a permanent store, test-drive the in-person experience at local markets to get a feel for how you like selling in person.

Jolande started at a few local markets in 2021. Being an introvert, she says she can find it draining to sell in-person. But practice has helped her get more comfortable chatting about Good market thrift store’s products and her business story.  

Now, she loves engaging with her customers, encouraging them to upcycle, sew, mend and take good care of their items. “That I think is what I’m most excited for, is sharing information with other people so they can be more excited about the clothes they already have,” she says.

3. Start small.

While Jolande has opened her own store in the months since her holiday-season retail stint, she purposefully wanted to try a pop-up first as a trial run.

She kept her expectations low and wasn’t tied to staying in a pop-up location or to opening a retail store. As she looked for a permanent spot, she also explored the idea of running multiple pop-ups throughout the year, so she wouldn’t be locked into a lease or trapped in a space during the slower months.

Multiple pop-ups proved logistically challenging as it’s hard to secure space, so Jolande focused on getting one pop-up in place and open ahead of Black Friday and the 2022 holiday shopping season.

She welcomed a small space, but the one thing that wasn’t negotiable was the location. Living in Toronto’s east end, Jolande wanted a spot for her pop-up that was close to the area’s main drag for retail and restaurants.

“The number one piece of business advice I got was if you’re a new business, you have to have foot traffic or you won’t survive,” says Jolande.

“If your focus is retailing, not online, and you’re not growing or advertising as much to bring people into your store, you have to rely on the area.”

good market thrift store - interior - sign with woven textiles and hanging clothing
good market thrift store photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

4. Fight to find the right space.

The problem with choosing a popular shopping area for your pop-up or permanent location is that availability of commercial space can be scarce — and expensive. And for a pop-up, there are additional hurdles.

Jolande kept coming up empty because no one wanted to rent a commercial space to a short-term tenant. She tried local business associations but found they didn’t specialize in helping pop-ups to… er, pop up.

Her realtor told her it wasn’t worth the time investment to hunt down possibilities. (The temporary nature of a pop-up means there’s work involved for the building owner that may not be worth it financially.)

She finally circled back to a possible space for her pop-up, skipped over dealing with her own realtor and called up the listing agent herself.

“The number one piece of business advice I got was if you’re a new business, you have to have foot traffic or you won’t survive.” — Jolande Amoraal, founder, good market thrift store

She told them she was trying to find a short-term arrangement, that she knew the listing had been available for a while, and that she wanted to pop up during the holidays.

“[The listing agent] ended up advocating for me to his client. I remember he said to me, ‘I don’t usually do this, but I really like your business and you seem to have all the answers to my questions,’” she says. “I think there are people out there who own storefronts that are empty and who would be interested.”

But if the conversation starts and stops with the realtors, leaseholders don’t get the chance to consider. So do some digging yourself to see what might be possible.

5. Get the minimum viable product out there.

The minimum viable product, or MVP, is a biz term for a product that attracts enough early customers to allow for feedback. Think of it as the earliest iteration of your shop and the most basic version of what you plan to build.

Getting the MVP out into the world quickly is crucial to shop growth, because it means your customers can start interacting with you — and you can make changes based on what they say. “Be as frugal as you can and launch something, just to get the feedback,” advises Jolande.

By opening the pop-up as quickly as possible, Jolande had real-time insight on what her customers were searching for, what pieces they gravitated towards, what questions they had — and, most importantly, what items would actually sell in-person versus online.

She also got feedback about how her shop stood up to other vintage stores in the area.

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“It felt like I was filling this other niche in that market,” Jolande says. “A lot of the feedback that I got was, ‘I just love your selection or your curation. It’s so different and your prices are so reasonable.’”

That insight helped her further refine her price points and validated the idea of a permanent location in that neighbourhood.

good market thrift store photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

6. Save money on thrifted or side-of-the-road finds.

Opening your own pop-up or store comes with a lot of upfront costs: rent, fixtures, point-of-sale system, marketing and more. So Jolande saved money where she could, often thrifting pieces or picking them up for free on the side of the road.

When she ran the Good market thrift store pop-up, the space she was in wasn’t built for retail. It had been most recently occupied by a bar, so the lighting was low. But she didn’t want to hardwire anything in a temporary space, so she clipped some inexpensive hanging lights to the ceiling and plugged them into an outlet.

Showcasing her inventory was another challenge. “When I looked at all the options, I could get the floating salesman racks on wheels — what people bring to the markets,” she says. “But I knew that’s not what I wanted in the long term for a store, and it was really hard to find them used. I wasn’t going to buy new and then sell them. It just didn’t feel like the best use of money.”

Her eventual solution? Inexpensive industrial piping from The Home Depot, which she used as rods for her hangers. They weren’t what she envisioned when she dreamed of her pop-up, but Jolande also knew that adjusting her expectations was important in getting her MVP out there — and they were easy to put together and take apart, like Lego.  

“I wanted it to look so much better, but it ended up being good, and that’s okay,” she says. “It was a pop-up space, so it wasn’t going to be perfect.”

She ended loving the industrial-boutique look and is still using the piping at the Queen Street store.

good market thrift store photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

7. Merchandise like it’s your home.

“If you think about your own house, you’ve curated this personal experience with all of your favourite things,” Jolande says. “When I’m curating my clothing and home things for the store, it’s the same thing. Just set it up in a way that you feel is really cohesive and beautiful.”

She recommends leaving enough space for a customer to walk around the store. Typically, that’s about four feet. At the pop-up, she had more room for aisles, which made the store feel spacious. In her new location, she’s closer to four feet.

Jolande modelled the pop-up after a thrift store, with a small window display and a merchandised feature area of home goods, but largely it was a sift-through-the-racks experience.

At her permanent location, she’s doing things a bit differently, showcasing more featured items and curating a wider mix of accessories and home goods, which is important to sales — often whatever’s on the mannequin sells that day.

“I find that that is more successful than just having a really generic retail experience like at Value Village,” she says.

good market thrift store photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

8. Remember you can’t do it all yourself.

Unfortunately, most small business owners do it themselves, and for far too long. Jolande learned quickly through the pop-up that retail wasn’t going to be a job she could do all on her own — she would have to ask for help.

“I’m very independent. And I have been from a very young age,” she says. “I’m always like, if I can do it myself, why would I bother other people because everyone’s busy?”

When she found a store counter for her pop-up from a Free People store that was closing, she figured she’d hire movers to transport the super-heavy piece, but the quotes came in close to $1,000.

Jolande reluctantly turned to some business-owner friends to help her move it, and they all did without question.

“The sense that I got afterwards was that it was no big deal that I was asking them,” she says. “They all have opened their stores and they’ve reached out to so many people for help!”

“I felt like there’s so much more opportunity to grow a business in a retail environment than just solely online. The safer next step — even though it’s a larger investment — felt like the retail experience.” — Jolande Amoraal, founder, good market thrift store

Jolande ran the pop-up by herself, steaming clothes and tagging at the counter while running down to the basement to get more inventory during lulls. If she had to go to the washroom or get something to eat, she’d throw a sign on the door. That made for long, exhausting days.

She hired extra hands for the holidays — a family friend who could stay in the store and manage the counter while she pulled up new inventory from the basement. She says it made a huge difference.

“Having help obviously requires a different look at your budget, which could be challenging,” Jolande notes. “When I look at my overall budget in the end, I didn’t pay myself. It was a break even. There were a lot of expenses there.”

Most businesses don’t break even in their first year, so Jolande already came out of the pop-up in a good position.

Now, in her retail store, she planned to work alone for a couple of months before hiring help. “But I’ve already noticed that I’m having trouble keeping up after just one week in terms of getting enough stuff back out on the floor,” she says.

She’s considering part-time or even full-time assistance to relieve her so she can leave the store to source — something she didn’t have to do with the finite amount of inventory she brought to the pop-up. “It’s definitely different from the pop-up, because I know I’m going to be continuing,” she says.

9. Use the pop-up as a way to capture customer data.

If you’re going to the effort of setting up a pop-up, make it give something back to you. See how shoppers use the store, what products they look at and what they buy.

And plan to use a data capture at the point-of-sale to get more information about your customers, like Jolande did with Good market thrift store.

“When you do a sale in-store, you don’t capture somebody’s email — you have to ask them for it,” Jolande says. “It’s different than online.”

Rather than asking customers to join a newsletter list, Jolande created a loyalty program to incentivize them.

For every customer who purchased, she’d ask if they wanted to start collecting points. If they did, they’d receive 20 per cent off their next order, either online or in-store. Rewards program participants also receive a first look at items 24 hours before they go live, and receive additional discounts through the accumulation of points.

She estimates about 95 per cent of customers left their email address during the pop-up. Due to anti-spam laws, customers still have to opt-in to receive emails after signing up, but it was a good starting point to build her list.

good market thrift store photo courtesy Leslieville BIA/Eszter Czibok Designs

10. Watch your finances, especially at the beginning.

Popping up for the holiday season was a strategic decision for Jolande, and it resulted in good sales. She broke even, but reflects that life with a permanent location will come with a lot more ups and downs.

“You have to account for how that spreads out over the year — that was the biggest learning,” she says, noting that high-sales months need to be balanced with low-traffic months like January.

“I have these grand ideas of having a beautiful, large retail space, but that comes at a price. Starting smaller is better. And if you’re gonna open your own store, start small, in a small space so that you can cover your costs.”

And now, that’s exactly what she did.

Visit good market thrift store at 912 Queen St. E. in Toronto, Wed-Sun 11 am to 6 pm.

For more information on opening a retail store, check out our article 10 things we learned about opening a vintage storefront.

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