Picking the perfect holiday present doesn’t have to induce panic. Gift giving can be one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season (I won’t even get into awkward confessions from your inebriated relatives). What kind of gift should it be? How much should you spend? Will the present-getter be upset you didn’t spend more? Or will he or she be angry if you did spend a lot and it winds up being inequitable in value to the gift you received? So much pressure! Santa makes it look easy since his recipients are typically under the age of 8. Toys? Yes. Socks? No. Done. For the rest of us, there’s Activated Spaces.
What started out as an art project to give downtown Dayton properties some jazz hands has entered its second phase: pop-up retail. “The ultimate goal of Activated Spaces is to bring new life and vibrancy to downtown Dayton,” says updayton cofounder Scott Murphy. “Pop-up shops offer the flexibility small business owners need in an atmosphere that will let them ‘test drive’ a location before committing to a longer-term lease.”
For the inaugural round, three shops were chosen from a list of applicants to put their merch up for sale in selected locations. Beaute Box, located at 116 W. Fifth St., specializes in high-end nail and spa services. Situated at 519 E. Fifth St. is PEACE on Fifth, the retail arm of the Dayton International Peace Museum offering certified slave-free, eco-friendly and fair-trade products. Comfort and Joy, 521 E. Fifth St., is a warm and fuzzy co-op of women whose handmade goods are said to “get you through the coldest winter night.”
The gift you give someone is necessarily reflective of your opinion of the person receiving the present. This year, avoid the shrink-wrapped basket of “deluxe” bath items and for goodness’ sake, put DOWN the Chia pet! Choose to purchase a lovingly hand-crafted item or personal service from a local business. “I take pleasure in knowing my products weren’t mass-produced from an assembly line or concocted in some Frankenstein laboratory,” says Comfort and Joy’s Evelyn Gordon, who creates scented Mason jar candles in her kitchen to sell at the pop-up on Fifth. “In a small business, products are driven not only by retail performance, but by direct feedback from customers. If someone asks me to modify the scent of a candle—maybe add a hint of cinnamon or cloves—I can do that and come back with new, customer-driven products the next day.”
Matching local businesses with vacant storefronts, overseeing the placement process, outfitting each space with signage and décor, supporting marketing needs and helping small business owners navigate the retail industry is no small order, especially for a group of volunteers representing a variety of industries and professional backgrounds. “We are fortunate to have a good group of passionate people who care about seeing downtown succeed,” says entertainment purveyor Jay Nigro, a Generation Dayton member coordinating pop-up retail efforts. “Research shows time and again that spending money locally—purchasing goods and services from locally owned businesses—keeps that money circulating in a community. That money gets invested in schools, nonprofit groups and feeds into the tax base. Buying local helps create and support jobs and education right here in the Miami Valley.”
Taking advantage of the “try-before-you-buy” lease options Activated Spaces offers gives small business owners like Lisa Scott the opportunity to see how a location will work before committing to a longer-term lease. “Activated Spaces is a great way to get started in operating your own business,” the Beaute Box owner says. “You never know how a relationship will work out with a property owner if you’re leasing, or if your location will get the traffic you think it will until you get in a space, and I’m glad Activated Spaces offers this option to ‘test drive’ my location before I sign a long-term lease.”
“We are encouraging people to do all or part of their holiday shopping at our store instead of buying products from large companies who exploit workers,” explains PEACE’s Abigail Reed. “Our products are certified fair trade; they only come from companies that comply with the nine principals of fair trade.”
So no matter what kind of gift, large or small, take the stress out of holiday shopping and remember to buy local this holiday season. Your purchase of a handcrafted item undoubtedly will make the season merry and bright for your recipient and the families of the local merchants and artisans. Revitalizing the local economy is the gift that keeps on giving, unlike a leopard-print Snuggie.