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Project Pop-Up aims to help small businesses try out a storefront

From left to right, Maxiel Beltre, Issamal Mejia and Shirley Salas, owners of three of the inaugural small businesses sharing Project Pop-Up Brookline until May. Photo by Matthew Eadie
January 9, 2024

Three small business owners celebrated the opening of a new pop-up storefront on Monday, part of a town program giving businesses the opportunity to temporarily test out their companies and products in the community.

Project Pop-Up Brookline opened on Monday at 440 Harvard St. in the JFK Crossing neighborhood. The shop will welcome small businesses to try their hand at a physical storefront, for a few months at a time each through the end of 2026.

The first businesses sharing the space are StyleMeMomma, owned by Issamal Mejia, 333 Skin & Bath Co., owned by Maxiel Beltre and Pure Essentials & Co., owned by Shirley Salas.

All three owners are Latina women, and mothers of young children. As the inaugural brands in the storefront, the small businesses will be in the location through May, when new companies will enter the space. Their rent is partially subsidized by the program, and the three businesses will split the $1,600 a month cost.

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Town Administrator Charles Carey, Economic Development Director Meredith Mooney and members of the Select Board joined the business owners in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday to mark the opening.

In 2022, the Select Board invested $365,000 into Project Pop-Up with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to support the program’s multi-year efforts to secure a storefront in Brookline, according to Mooney.

“We’re going to have the opportunity to have businesses that might not have otherwise been able to start in Brookline thanks to some of the higher barriers of entry,” Carey said.

Beltre, owner of one of the pop-up’s inaugural businesses, said she is excited about the opportunity to have a physical space to showcase her products after previously having shorter-term pop up locations and online-only retail.

Her company, 333 Skin & Bath Co, is a wellness brand that specializes in selling self-care products like crystal-filled bath bombs and bath salts.

“I feel like being an online retailer, sometimes you’re a little bit disconnected from your customer,” Beltre said. “I really love that we are going to be in the community and going to be able to ask for feedback, and test products and see where our customer is on a more one-to-one level.”

Salas said being able to share the space with Beltre and Mejia means a lot to her, allowing the three women to support each other through the process.

“Running a business is definitely not the easiest thing to do,” Salas said. “Being able to support each other … it’s an accomplishment and it feels really good.”

After her time in the pop up store ends, Salas said she hopes to have a permanent location where she can sell her products, which include a line of candles. Salas said she will be holding candle making and yoga classes in the storefront beginning next week.

Allison Yee, the founder and CEO of UpNext, the company that runs Project Pop-Up, said on Monday that the storefront is the 21st pop-up location across 16 municipalities across the region. It’s the only multi-year location, with the others being temporary locations that have mostly closed. According to the project’s website, there are currently three other temporary pop-up locations open in Lowell, Westborough and Melrose.

Allison Yee, founder and CEO of UpNext, the company that runs Project Pop-Up, speaks to Select Board members and community members during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday. Photo by Matthew Eadie

“This is a very special and unique storefront,” Yee said. “[Brookline] is the first municipality who has seen the potential for this longer term, who has committed to running an incubator storefront, right here, through the end of 2026.”

Yee said applications remain open for future retailers to enter the space in May, and said the number of applications has been “huge,” adding the importance of finding the right businesses that fit the space and the surrounding community.

“Brookline is a place where things happen,” Carey said on Monday. “It’s a place where people are innovative, it’s a place where businesses can come and get their start, it’s a place where the community supports people who come in from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, to ensure they have the opportunity to succeed here.”