As you scroll through Pop Up Grocer’s Instagram you forget you’re looking at a grocery store’s account. Often “fun,” “fresh,” and “cool” are the last words you think of as you’re pushing an unsanitized grocery cart through generic aisles, but with Pop Up Grocer, shopping doesn’t look like a chore, but rather an Insta-worthy moment you’d want to share with friends.
Picture after picture showcases a superfood from one of their many collaborators, which are not only nutritious, but great to look at. It’s hard not to drool with each appetizing snack you see, but what makes this grocery store so different isn’t just their Instagram, but their transient nature.
Pop Up Grocer is open for only a month at a time. Picking up snacks becomes more than just a quick driveby; instead, it’s an event.
Founder Emily Schildt and her team keep all the busywork under wraps until about six weeks before the next shop opening. One by one, new products decorate their Instagram, giving sneak peeks into what’s to come. Then, a month before opening, the full family of brands — predominantly found online — is revealed.
Their most recent, September 2019 opening (held in New York’s SoHo neighborhood), featured over 150 different brands with products including Chickpea Pasta, Pecan Butter with Sweet Potato, and Sichuan Chili Crisps. Every product is carefully curated by Schildt and her team, and each must meet a strict set of criteria:
1 | Are they new? Do they have an interesting story? Do they put a new spin on a familiar product?
2 | Is the packaging aesthetically pleasing and will fit well with other Pop Up Grocer brands?
3 | Do they meet strict nutritional standards? Do they source their ingredients responsibly and with care?
Indeed, conscious is the name of the game for Pop Up Grocer. According to one of the brand’s Instagram posts, their latest opening featured food that was “99% Vegetarian, 93% Gluten-Free, 81% Vegan, 75% Refined Sugar-Free, 59% Nut-Free, 49% Allergen-Friendly, and 65% Women-Owned.”
And food isn’t all you can buy. “We complement our 150-175 food, beverage, home, pet, and body care brands with a small selection of indie magazines for purchase, as well as a local restaurant partner for fresh, daily baked goods and coffee,” explains Schildt. “Overall, we want the shop to feel like a well-rounded, elevated bodega of sorts, complete with everything you need (and don’t need, but want desperately).”
Along with their eye-catching products, the store itself is just as aesthetically pleasing. Their SoHo shop was lined with gleaming white tiles and carefully placed products. Rather than feeling like a generic grocery store, it looked like a trendy hangout spot — you come to shop, but feel as though you can sit and chat for hours.
It’s obvious that there’s a lot of care put into the opening of each store, and some of it stems from Schildt’s love of food and business. In an interview with Supermaker, she recalls how she’d been playing with the idea of a grocery store for some time, but the thought hadn’t clicked until she was on vacation with her mother. In their itinerary, she had scheduled for them to go to a grocery store. When her mother asked why they would go get groceries when they were going to eat out, the budding entrepreneur replied, “You don’t go to a museum to buy art, you go there to appreciate it.” This ethos is taken to a wonderful conclusion with Pop Up Grocer, in both food and art.
It is Schildt’s vision to create a platform that small food companies can use to gain exposure. By taking these brands to different locations, they increase that visibility, and more and more people are able to try game-changing brands, far too cool for the supermarket.
Today, on February 7th, Pop Up Grocer opens in Venice, California — which Schildt calls “the SoHo of the West Coast” — and has plans to go to Austin, Denver, and Boston, before heading back to New York.
Until they come to your town, keep track of their ever-growing family of brands on Instagram (all soon to be Insta famous, of course).
Johanie Cools is a blogger, writer, book editor, and aspiring author. Follow her on Twitter at @jmartdotcom or on Medium at @jmcools.