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Another store popping up in downtown Winnipeg

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Jonathan Seah and Hannah Chau in their downtown pop-up store called Chook Clothing Co.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jonathan Seah and Hannah Chau in their downtown pop-up store called Chook Clothing Co. Photo Store

ANOTHER pop-up store has popped up downtown.

A clothing shop selling T-shirts aimed at youth with a passion for skateboarding, graffiti art and streetwear culture opens today at the corner of Graham Avenue and Vaughan Street.

The Chook Clothing Co. store is part of a one-year pilot project, dubbed Push, that was launched last May by the city's downtown development agency, CentreVenture Development Corp.

The program is modelled after similar pop-up retail concepts seen in other major cities. It pairs startup retailers with vacant downtown storefronts on a short-term, low-rent basis. The aim is to help reactivate ground-floor retail spaces, create opportunities for retailers to test the downtown market, draw more shoppers downtown and potentially lead to long-term lease deals for the formerly vacant spaces.

The first pop-up storefront opened last May in the Silpit Building on McDermot Avenue. Called the Exchange Uporium, it provides retail space for 40 Winnipeg fashion designers, artists and vintage-clothing curators.

CentreVenture development manager Tom Janzen said that store has been a huge success. The entrepreneurs behind it were supposed to leave at the end of September, but have worked out a deal with the building manager to stay until at least Christmas.

"We're hoping it makes it through the holiday season and that makes them want to continue on with it," he added.

Winnipegger Jonathan Seah is the man behind the new pop-up store. He's been operating Chook Clothing as an online retail operation for about a year and is eager to see how it performs as a bricks-and-mortar operation.

He said half the 2,000-square-foot space will be a retail store, and he's created a "mini skateboard park" in the other half for skateboard demonstrations and other events.

Seah said he couldn't afford to open a store on his own, so he's grateful for the help he's getting from CentreVenture and the provincial government, which also provided funding for the Push program.

He said it's great to see young entrepreneurs getting a chance to participate in the downtown-revitalization effort.

"As a young Winnipegger, I do want to see downtown Winnipeg get closer to where cities like Vancouver and Toronto are."

A University of Manitoba commerce grad, Seah works full-time doing actuarial and pension-plan administration work for a local financial services firm.

Designing and selling T-shirts is just a part-time venture at this point, although his hope is it eventually will evolve into a full-time business.

He said if this pop-up experiment goes well, he hopes to find another pop-up opportunity somewhere in the downtown.

murray.mneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2014 B7

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