INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Imagine getting to open up your own brick-and-mortar store with a month of free rent, no catch.
A downtown partnership is offering monthlong trials to small business owners in Indianapolis to help the businesses gauge whether they want their own store space and as a way to fill vacant storefronts temporarily. Most of those businesses sell their products online or from pop-up to pop-up.
About 15% of storefronts downtown are empty, according to Catherine Esselman, senior project manager for Develop Indy, a branch of the Indy Chamber.
The Indy Chamber and Pattern, a nonprofit that supports artistic endeavors in Indianapolis and publishes a quarterly art and fashion magazine, are partnering with a program called St’ArtUp 317 that lets businesses give the brick-and-mortar scene a shot for the month of May.
“To be downtown in a very visible area, that is what I needed,” said Codi Banks, who owns Witty by Codi.
Her company sells custom-made clothes, and her pop-up space is in what used to be a JoS. A. Bank Clothiers on East Washington Street, right by Monument Circle.
She is joined by Deonna Craig, who was painting when News 8 walked into the old JoS. A. Bank Clothiers.
“I’ve met people from New Zealand; I sold a painting yesterday to someone from Pittsburgh,” said Craig.
Landlords of empty storefronts let Indy Chamber and Pattern bring the spaces to life by choosing artists to decorate and entrepreneurs to fill these spaces.
“It’s a low-risk opportunity where the businesses have kind of a runway to see what they can make with this opportunity,” said Esselman.
A flower shop that participated in last year’s St’ArtUp 317 month now rents space in Salesforce Tower. One of the storefronts that was empty at the Artistry in downtown Indianapolis last year is now a nail salon.
“The end goal of the whole program is taking space that is not living its highest and best use and finding out how we can celebrate when a use does go in there,” said Esselman.
To see a complete list of the shops that are open and the storefronts that are decorated, click here.