Several years ago, Josh Harden made an impulse buy via Craigslist: a battered 1968 Avion trailer with a worn interior featuring shag carpeting and needing an aroma fix. "I literally got it down by the river in Cincinnati," said Harden, of German Village, who paid $3,000 for it.
Several years ago, Josh Harden made an impulse buy via Craigslist: a battered 1968 Avion trailer with a worn interior featuring shag carpeting and needing an aroma fix.
“I literally got it down by the river in Cincinnati,” said Harden, of German Village, who paid $3,000 for it.
He drove the silver behemoth cross-country for seven months, acquiring thousands of thrift-store T-shirts on the cheap, then flipping the retro finds for a tidy profit on eBay to cover food and fuel costs.
The positive response (and income) in 2010 led to an online clothing-resale business, Ghetto Vintage, that Harden runs full time from a Whitehall warehouse.
During the summer, he went mobile — maintaining Web sales but using the trailer, which he’d refurbished, as a secondary tool to move extra T’s and attract new customers.
Despite limited hours and exposure, he said, his business has been good.
“We’re just showing up, and people are finding us,” said Harden, who sets up mostly at flea markets and farmers markets.
On Saturday, he’ll park his trailer at N. High Street and W. 3rd Avenue during the Short North Gallery Hop.
As the enduring wave of food trucks has proved both in central Ohio and nationwide, spontaneity has its share of mystique that can prove profitable.
Like Harden, other area merchants — whether established or untested — are trying the less permanent route, selling wares via vehicles-turned-showrooms or through “pop-up” retail stores, or short-term establishments based in vacant strip malls or other urban spaces.
“The (pop-up) trend .?.?. became an opportunity when a lot of retailers started failing,” said Michael McCarthy, a marketing professor at Miami University in Oxford.
For Nate DeMars, the idea of a temporary retail venture grew from a class project during his master’s studies at Ohio State University.
His full-time business is called Pursuit, a menswear shop he operated for two months last fall in unused space within the South Campus Gateway complex. It targets younger guys in search of suits, dress shirts and accessories.
Student patronage was strong enough that, in April, DeMars and his team reopened in the same spot. The shop is scheduled to vacate the space on Dec. 31, he said, but he plans to extend his lease through OSU’s spring graduation.
“We know our concept works,” said the 29-year-old, who also transports his stock to campus fraternities. “We’ve seen the success.”
He would like to establish pop-up shops next year at several rural Ohio universities, he said, and, at some point, acquire a vehicle to establish a “taco-truck-style ‘suit-mobile.’??”
The three women who opened Via Patina to sell industrial antiques, re-purposed furniture and jewelry signed a two-month lease with the intention of opening on Thursdays through Sundays on the ground floor of the Fifth Third Center, S. High and E. State streets.
The shop, inspired by market-style setups in London and Los Angeles, will close for good at the end of business on Sunday.
“A full-time retail establishment is not in our future,” said co-owner Sally Cooper of Centerburg, Ohio. “It’s a big experiment on our part.”
For some entrepreneurs, the inherent flexibility in a mobile or temporary business allows them to tailor wares to specific customers or a certain location.
In August, Sara Guice and her sister, Miranda Boyle, launched Thread on Wheels, an extension of Thread, their women’s boutique in Grandview Heights.
With their renovated 1972 Airstream trailer, the siblings can curate a selection of apparel for particular events — including trunk shows, bachelorette parties and street fairs.
“It’s an awesome way to provide customer service,” Guice said.
A renovated bookmobile purchased in the summer by Global Gallery, a nonprofit gift shop with outlets in the Clintonville and Short North neighborhoods, is helping to extend the store brand and philanthropic mission.
Inside, shoppers find similar fair-trade merchandise — jewelry from India, alpaca scarves from Bolivia and Nativity scenes crafted in South Africa.
The mobile unit plans to visit the Gallery Hop on Saturday, parking at N. High Street and E. 2nd Avenue, and travel throughout December to craft fairs.
“We can go anywhere anyone would like to have us,” said Connie DeJong, executive director of Global Gallery. “People engage differently. They feel at home.”
In some cases, ventures intended to be transient end up finding permanence.
Celebrate Local — a pop-up shop that opened in October 2011 inside the former Harry & David space at Easton Town Center with more than 250 food, fashion, craft and beauty items from the Buckeye State — has maintained its residency because of the demand for its products.
In January, the store will make the transition into a 2,943-square-foot permanent space on Townsfair Way next to Panera Bread, said Heidi Maybruck, who handles short-term leases for the mall.
A similar trajectory played out for Greg Turner, whose clothing and furniture shop, Fringe, originated online, then moved in 2010 to an empty Short North space as a pop-up with limited operating hours and a month-to-month lease.
Since buoyed by a network of relationships with customers and designers, the store last month became a full-time effort — with plans to stay.
“I did baby steps to get to that goal,” said Turner, 25. “Being approachable is what attracts people the most.”
And Harden of Ghetto Vintage, reversing a stance never to seek a permanent storefront, is considering the plunge based on positive reactions to his once-crummy van.