TUSLA, Okla. — A new program been launched to help small businesses and give a boost to downtown Tulsa.
The program is part of the Downtown Days of Wonder campaign and the goal is to bring more people and stores downtown by having pop-up shops go into vacant property spaces.
Duewa Gordon started her luxury candle store, Iscents Candles, online three years ago but now she’s opening up her first physical storefront in downtown Tulsa.
“I’m nervous, I’m excited, I don’t know if I want to smile, laugh or cry,” she said.
Gordon is one of eight business owners starting pop-up shops in five empty store fronts. They were given temporary ground-floor retail spaces in the Deco District and Tulsa Arts District.
Gordon said it’s giving small businesses like hers a helping hand.
“Especially for underserved communities and underserved businesses who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to come in and be in a physical space for people to know them and meet them directly, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to be here and learn,” she said.
Some financial support was given to help the shops, including small grants to cover the rent or buy display shelving.
Brian Kurtz is president of the Downtown Tulsa Partnership (DTP), which is the group behind the pop-up shop program. Kurtz said the goal is to bring shoppers back to downtown.
“These urban centers were the original malls that were out there, shops of various sorts lining up the streets and sidewalks, and we’re trying to bring that back, that downtown is a shopping destination, just like you would find out in any sort of mall,” he said.
Kurtz also said most of businesses in downtown are locally owned and the money they make helps supports the economy in Tulsa.
“95% of our businesses in downtown are small businesses locally owned by Tulsans, they’re employing other Tulsans and the money spent in small businesses and locally owned businesses stays in the local economy at a higher rate than not,” he said.
Fallon L. Dickson runs Tropical Origin, which sells hair and wellness products. Dickson has a pop-up shop in the Philtower building and hopes Christmas shopping will give her business a boost.
“This is a great time of year to sell products and we’ve been like cooped up in the house and you know people are just getting comfortable with doing a lot of shopping and spending more time outside of the home, so it does, Christmas brings a lot of money in to the local economy and hopefully my business can get a little piece of that,” she said.
The pop-up shop program was launched Saturday and will run through to the New Year.
Kurtz hopes store owners will sign long term eases after this and also hopes the Downtown Tulsa Partnership will have another pop-up event in the future.
“We hope that many of these entrepreneurs will sign long term leases in in downtown, but we also hope to try this again and it doesn’t just need to be a holiday pop-up event...we can try this at various points throughout the year as well,” he said.
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