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Retail shops pop up on East Houston Street

Boutiques part of city initiative to make use of vacant space

SAN ANTONIO – It’s somehow fitting that Lauren Gonzalez’s boutique of upcycled vintage fashions would pop up in a vintage 1906 downtown building called the Book Building. 

The vacant old structure at 140 E. Houston St. is now a temporary home to Gonzalez’s business, Socorro Society, and three other budding businesses. It’s part of the city of San Antonio’s ongoing Open Downtown Pop-Up Shop Program.

“They give you the opportunity to have a store of your own,” Gonzalez said. “Really, what it means is to get people in the store, how to market it, how to make it all happen.”

The entrepreneurs are offered no-cost or low-cost leases and a chance to test their business models to see if the time is right for a brick-and-mortar storefront. For the city, it’s an opportunity to rejuvenate the urban core.

“It’s really a great way to take a space downtown that is just sitting there and activate it and make people want to come in and be downtown,” said Kelly Kapaun Saunders, with the San Antonio Center City Development and Operations Department.

Since the program began about four years ago, dozens of businesses have rotated in and out. For some of them, the opportunity opened the door to something permanent.

Elsa Fernandez was among the first to participate in the pop-up program. Now her Eye Candy Boutique at 531 Navarro St. is celebrating three years as a brick-and-mortar storefront.

“There is really no way I would have been able to start not having that kind of accelerator,” she said. 

As for the four new pop-ups, East Houston Street is their home for the next six months until the building begins its transformation into a boutique hotel. It is six months that could make all the difference to Gonzalez.

“My hope would really be to open my own storefront,” Gonzalez said.


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