Handmade wares ‘Pop Up’ at Burgheoisie

Written By Nicole Chynoweth

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While living in Philadelphia, Lauren Stauffer contributed to pop-up projects – community initiatives that promote revitilization by opening exhibits and businesses in vacant storefronts.”It makes the city a little more vibrant,” Stauffer, 26, said.When she moved to Pittsburgh last July, Stauffer made sure to try to involve herself in a similar opportunity.Stauffer, along with several other women, recently opened Burgheoisie, a boutique that sells the handmade wares of local artists and is part of Project Pop Up Pittsburgh, a measure created by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to transform the empty storefronts of Downtown with arts and culture-related stores and displays.”Providing people with local handmade goods is kind of the fashion now – being sustainable, local and thinking of the environment – and there is a lot of talent in every city, and I think Pittsburgh is beginning to get tapped in that way,” said Stauffer, Burgheoisie’s co-director of Information Technology, in an interview at the store on Thursday. “It’s pretty exciting to be on the forefront of that.”Located at 208 6th St., Burgheoisie is the product of a collaborative effort from artists in Pittsburgh.”When the Pittsburgh Pop Up Project was announced and there was a call for proposals, I had an idea to do simply what Burgheoisie became and shared the idea on Facebook, both on the Steeltown Etsy page and my personal page, and several people responded saying, ‘Hey I wanna know more,” said Tamara Barker, co-founder and director of finance for Burgheoisie, in an interview last Thursday at the store.Barker worked with Stauffer and artist Suz Pisano to create the store’s proposal, which aimed to “provide a place for local artists to sell their homemade items,” according to Barker. In September, Project Pop Up Pittsburgh announced the approval of 15 proposals, and out of the 94 applicants, Burgheouisie was chosen as a finalist. After the application process, it was time to reach out to Pittsburgh artists who would help fill the store with eclectic handmade wares.”We put out a call for applications at a number of places,” Barker said of Burgheoisie’s search for arts and crafts merchants. “Some of us emailed people who we knew would be interested. I posted on our local Steeltown Etsy page and posted it on Facebook. As applications came in, we juried them to make sure there would be a good mix of quality and variety.”The Burgheoisie team chose the work of about 20 artists to stock the store with merchandise, with artists choosing to be either co-operative members or consignment members. Consignment members simply agree to sell their wares in the store, while co-operative members involve themselves a bit more in the store’s success.”A co-op member actually pays rent to be a part of the store and commits to working hours in the store,” Pisano explained. “Co-op members have a little more responsibility in that they have to work here. They have to know how to make sales. They have to know how to set up merchandise and move things around.”After finding artists to help them stock their shelves with crafty items, Pisano, Barker and Stauffer hurried to turn the storefront’s “raw space” into Burgheoisie, according to Pisano.”We got our [store] keys on a Tuesday, and we actually had an event planned for that Friday during Light-Up Night,” Pisano said in an interview at the store last Wednesday. “So once we got the keys it just started happening really quickly and then before we knew it, we were open.”Burgheoisie held several preview events to give the public a glimpse of the boutique’s offerings in November and had its official opening on Light-Up Night. Pisano and the rest of the staff look forward to continuing their focus on hosting events at Burgheoisie.Part of our proposal was to be events driven,” Pisano said. “We’re going to host…once or twice a month…a ‘Stitch n’ B-tch’…[it ]is just a modern reincarnation of the old sewing circle where women can just, you know if you’re having a bad day just let it fly, get together with your girlfriends but also in that learn some new techniques.”In addition to events, the Burgheoisie team hopes to improve the way they market the boutique.”We’re coming up with a comprehensive marketing plan which will start in February,” Pisano said. “Our project is technically over in May with the potential of it being extended six more months, but we know that we want to stay here indefinitely, which is important. Looking at longevity, we’re taking the marketing aspect very serious.”

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