WICKER PARK — An online service connecting brick-and-mortar retailers with sellers looking for a temporary "pop-up" space — a concept that has been described as "an Airbnb for retail" — is entering the Chicago market, it was announced Tuesday.
"Chicago is a large city with a great retail core and neighborhoods that have their own culture," said Erik Eliason, co-founder of Storefront, a San Francisco-based startup that has served as the middleman for what the company says is $40 million in pop-up merchandise sales in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“We have been seeing the number of pop-up stores grow at an incredible pace, with over 1,000 stores set up through Storefront in less than a year,” Eliason said.
In New York City, where Storefront recently celebrated its first year, the firm has helped to open more than 300 pop-up shops, with nearly half of its merchant clients returning to rent another space, Eliason said.
Storefront said there are 136 retail spaces available in Chicago for short-term licensing arrangements, including Downtown, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and Pilsen. View the listings here.
Included in the listings is a boutique in Lincoln Park offering space for $200 per day and an area of a Wicker Park shop for $300 per day.
While major brands like Nike and Google have used Storefront, independent designers and artists such as Catherine Malandrino and Nora Gardner also have used Storefront to find short-term commercial real estate to lease.
In a telephone interview, Eliason was quick to call the the temporary arrangements "agreements" and not leases because Storefront is not a licensed brokerage firm, though the firm works with property owners and brokers.
"Leases can be several pages and take a long time. We have a short, one-page document that can be processed in under 30 minutes, which includes a general liability insurance plan that can go up to $5 million on either side," he said.
While it is free to have your space listed on Storefront.com, the company charges a transaction fee of 2.5 percent for renters as well as those leasing out their spaces.
Last month, at Storefront's "soft launch" at Wicker Park's Jackson Junge Gallery, 1389 N. Milwaukee Ave., Liane Jackson, owner of Free Range Office, a co-working space, said that she had listed her space for rent on Storefront.com
"There is a lot of competition in this market, and it will be interesting to see how this works," Jackson said, adding that she uses other websites for renting out her space, such as PunchBowl and EventUp.
Storefront's long-term vision is to "make retail space accessible for all brands, big or small, while also helping drive down vacancies for space owners," according to a news release.
To celebrate its entry into the Chicago market, Storefront is hosting a launch party from 7-10 p.m. Tuesday at Lacuna Artist Lofts, Reverie Gallery 2150 S. Canalport Ave in Pilsen. At the gathering, people interested in renting out spaces short-term can meet those who have space to rent.
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