Did you hear? Pop Up Grocer aka PUG just opened its first not-so-temporary flagship storefront in NYC. We’ve been patiently waiting for the news. Emily Schildt (founder and CEO) has opened the permanent fixture last week on March 3, 2023. Jot this address down: 205 Bleecker Street NY, NY. Because you’ll want to check it out.

Roughly 3,000 square feet, tucked into one of those adorable triangular buildings you only see in big cities. To give you a comparison, a typical grocery store boasts on average about 40,000 square feet of retail space.  

Since 2019, PUG has had many successful installments across the US – NYC, Venice Beach, Miami, Austin, Chicago, Washington DC, and most recently Denver. It’s a traveling show of sorts, for curious foodies who like to eat with their eyes. A modern day museum, one where you can buy (and eat) the art. This is right up our alley. Their mission? To make grocery memorable.

In February 2020, our team got to visit the 2nd ever Pop-Up version in Venice Beach, CA. In hindsight, I guess we got pretty lucky to sneak in before COVID took over the in-person shopping experience. It was a last hoo-rah before things got weird!

Each location has about 150 brands – mostly food and beverage with some pet and self-care sprinkled in. PUG says it best…it’s ‘for curious, conscious shoppers’. 

So what’s the point in creating a temporary store with such a small footprint?

Well, it’s no secret that big retailers prioritize brands with big budgets. And while there’s a place for that, this strategy pushes out space for small, independent thinkers and brand creators. And in turn, consumers are given less freedom of choice. For new brands just starting out, it is hard to land a spot in one of the big retail chains across the country. And once you do, it is hard to sustain. Less volume, less shelf space, less visibility, etc. etc. – it’s easy for these brands to get overlooked and under supported. 

This is what PUG has to say about it all…

“Here’s the thing: most supermarket aisles aren’t organized with you in mind. They prioritize Big Brands that can pay top dollar for eye-level shelf placement, and neglect your interest in finding Small ones in the process. We started Pop Up Grocer to do things differently…Through us, you’ll discover products that are hard to find or see elsewhere, and that support the growth of independent makers… We reject the notion that grocery shopping has to be blah. So, come boogie?”

From an interview with Emily via The Progressive Grocer, in August of 2022, ‘Once a city is selected, and they narrow in on the right neighborhood, PUG finds a short term lease to set up shop. The team localizes each shop through signage, florals, etc. They keep everything a secret until about 1 month before opening, in which they reveal the full family of brands, online.’

Speaking of online, the website captures the PUG in-store environment well. If you’ve never been, the scene is vibrant, just like their website. Products are well organized and easy to navigate. It’s all presented in a very lifestyle forward way. Almost as if you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes. 

In the top right of their landing page you’ll see a bit of copy:

“Browse 600+ brands in the PUG family, according to your cravings and curiosities. Filter by category, dietary preference, founder identity, etc., among all better-for-you + better-for-the-planet products.”

We love this idea of being able to peruse packaging with all of these specifics in mind, from the comfort of your home. We also love that they go a step further and only source brands that are culturally inclusive and also considerate of our sensitive climate.

For example – here’s the breakdown from the Washington DC NoMa location the summer of 2022, according to local news site the DCist – ‘54% of the brands were women-owned, 25% BIPOC and queer-owned and 8% were local.’ Now that’s pretty cool. 

What happens when the Pop Up closes? 

PUG donates all unsold product or ships it back to brand partners to sell there. They donate remaining food to local food rescues. 

Are you a new brand owner or independent maker? 

Check out some of their sourcing criteria to see if you’re a good fit…

o   New & interesting

o   Responsibly sourced

o   Good Looking (the packaging, obviously)

o   Women-owned / BIPOC / Queer-owned