This designer has pop-up potential
Her to-do list is written in pink chalk on one wall and includes just a few remaining tasks, such as painting the walls gray.
The pallets of wood are stacked along another wall, where they will become display racks for shoes.
Jennifer Graf has come a long way from handing out homemade jewelry and Christmas ornaments to family and friends as gifts. The 30-something Washington, D.C.-area native has graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and designed clothes for Rocawear and Raffi.
Now, she is opening her own store.
Graf is rehabbing a space at 124 N. Davie St. It’ll be a pop-up shop selling consigned clothing and accessories. She is calling it Vintage to Vogue.
With the store, Graf is hoping to fulfill her own dreams while filling a retail void in downtown Greensboro.
But it has taken more than two years to get to this point.
Graf moved from New York to Greensboro for love. She got a job as a designer for the Kayser-Roth Corp., but she had more trouble finding a place to start her own business.
Graf knew she wanted to have a store downtown; she liked the energy and potential there. But she said the rents were too high, and none of the property owners were interested in her idea for a pop-up shop, which would allow her to test having a retail store without making a long-term commitment.
And then Ryan Saunders — a social entrepreneur who has done work to help make Greensboro a more vibrant place — introduced Graf to his boss, Marty Kotis of Kotis Properties.
Kotis, a busy developer in Greensboro, is not afraid of new. His projects are known for their distinct features. He said he was interested in Graf opening a pop-up in any of his properties to help “retain more sharp young people with great ideas that want to change our city for the better.”
Kotis is allowing Graf to use the Davie Street space that he owns for a pop-up shop. The long-vacant space remains for sale, but both Graf and Kotis agree that she’ll be there for about a year if things go well.
As part of the deal, Graf has taken the responsibility of getting the site — which is about 1,200 square feet — ready for retail. When she started working on the space, it had no electricity, no water and smelled “horrible.”
“I took it on as an as-is space,” Graf said.
Graf quit her job at Kayser-Roth to concentrate on the shop full time. She said it’ll sell high-end used clothing and accessories. She wants shoppers to be able to buy items there that they can’t get elsewhere in Greensboro. Think Chanel purses.
But she’ll also sell vintage clothing, as well as new pieces from local designers.
Graf has already got merchandise ready to be stocked, thanks to some of her northern friends. The opening date has been pushed back a few times, but Graf now hopes to have the store open by mid-October.
She said she is hoping to inspire other downtown property owners to let young entrepreneurs use their vacant buildings in a similar manner.
Look for her grand opening within the next few weeks.