Last month Arise! Bookstore, a well-known fixture in Uptown’s arts and activism community for more than a decade, may have closed its doors, but that doesn’t mean 2441 Lyndale Avenue will just fade away into the pages of bookstore history.
The space will soon be the new home of Boneshaker Books, a collective bookstore whose mission resembles that of its predecessor: progressive, independent reads. Here’s the catch. While Boneshaker won’t be ready for its grand unveiling until late August, the bills still have to be paid. So former members of Arise! and new members of Boneshaker put their heads together and came up with a solution: Storefront-in-a-Box, a project that allows the location of the future Boneshaker to host a different store every week, each run by temporary tenants until August when Boneshaker is ready to take off.
“Members wanted to come up with a way to keep the transition positive,” said Amanda Luker, a member of the Boneshaker Books Collective and a former member and volunteer at Arise!. “When we realized that Arise! wasn’t going to make it, a few of us volunteers decided that this Storefront-in- a- Box idea was something we wanted to try as a means of refocusing the project from a negative to a positive. The transition was definitely an amicable one.”
Kristen Murray, project coordinator behind Storefront-in-a-Box, said she has always been interested in the creative ways storeowners use their space. Once she got word of the newly-hatched plan, she immediately jumped on board. “Right away I recognized this was an interesting idea that just made sense,” said Murray. “It really serves a need that the community has, and is something I believe should happen more.”
Time was a factor from the very beginning. “There wasn’t a lot of time to work with between the idea being tossed around, and it needing to get started,” said Murray. “We spent about five weeks relying solely on word-of-mouth promotion, Facebook, and emailing our networks. When the Minneapolis Fringe Festival and Minnesota Artists.org began promoting us, things really took off.”
The team worked out a plan as to how the rental could work, the cost ($200 for the week), the schedule (Tuesday through Monday), and what the space could potentially be used for. “It has been really interesting to see what people want to do with the space,” said Murray. “We like that people have complete ownership over the space during the week.”
Each temporary tenant was chosen on a first-come-first-serve basis. “The project was definitely not curated,” Murray said. “As long as it’s legal, it’s fine. Each storefront is interesting in its diversity. There is definitely a creative thread connecting them, but they’re all different. Each one reflects the need and the personality of the owner behind it.”
Angela Davis, the first participant of Storefront-in-a-Box, used the space as an art market, showcasing her original prints, paintings and jewelry. Davis, an active member of the Minneapolis art scene for over 20 years, first heard about Storefront-in- a-Box through mnartist.org and jumped at the opportunity. “I’ve done art fairs and craft fairs every summer,” said Davis, “but this was something completely unique and the response has been really great so far.”
Upcoming events include “Biking in a Box,” an event in which bicycle buffs can distribute information about their organizations, host demonstrations or “pedal” their wares, and the Naughtybilly Hoedown hosted by Courtney McLean and the Dirty Curls. “We are all so excited about this project! When we first heard about it we were like, ‘Oh my God, we have GOT to get in on this!'” said McLean, who will be taking over the storefront during the first week of August with a whirlwind of activities and events including Nudie suit-making (as in Nudie Cohn, the designer of rhinestone-studded suits worn by the likes of Elvis Presley and Roy Rogers), bluegrass songwriting, and good ol’ fashioned jam sessions.
So what in particular drew this band in so quickly? The project’s store’s-all-yours attitude. “We’re very party-oriented people,” said McLean, “as in getting people together and having fun without all the rules and strings attached. As a band we love doing so many things, so much more than just playing our music, and this gives us the opportunity to meet new people and interact in an environment other than on stage.”
Storefront-in-a-Box, a project as unique as Minneapolis, has taken a potential business setback, and turned it into a mutually beneficial business opportunity for so many. Murray and Luker plan to create a video documentary of the project profiling each tenant. “I would like to [learn] more about this project from the owner’s perspective,” said Murray, “how this project influenced them and the community, what worked, what didn’t work. The response we’ve gotten so far has been so positive, we believe this is a business model that could definitely be continued elsewhere.”
Storefronts are booked solid through the rest of the summer so check out www.storefrontinabox.com for a full schedule of upcoming events.