Pop(-Up) Culture: The Brick & Mortar Festival

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Starting November 23, Capital Apartments on 108 Street will become the home of a brand-new festival event combining stunning design, unique experiences, and some truly innovative local businesses. Brick & Mortar: An Intersection of Retail & Design is the latest showcase from local design firm Vignettes, who collaborated with the Edmonton Downtown Business Association (DBA) as well as many of Edmonton’s favourite businesses on the project.

This project marks a new direction for Vignettes, informed by the harsh realities facing many local businesses right now. “Usually we have a design series where we take over an underutilized space in Edmonton, usually downtown Edmonton, and we transform it into an immersive art and design experience,” says Amos Kajner-Nonnekes, design partner at Vignettes. “This year, we teamed up with the Downtown Business Association and some amazing local businesses to think about how we’re going to keep brick and mortar retail businesses alive, including hospitality businesses. With COVID, and with Amazon and all of the e-commerce giants taking over, it’s so important to the vibrancy of the city.”

Brick & Mortar consists of a series of four pop-up retail locations that will host six different businesses, including restaurants, clothing stores, perfumers, and more. The businesses will have access to the space for free for one month, connecting with customers while showcasing eclectic and exciting retail spaces. “These festivals give such an opportunity to some of the best artists and designers we have in the city, some of the most innovative businesses we have in the city,” Kajner-Nonnekes says. “We get to include the artist, include the business owner, include everyone in the process, and everyone co-creates everything.”

For many participating business owners, this festival is their first chance to offer customers a physical storefront. “We’ve always been a wholesaler and online. Brick and mortar was always something we toyed around with, but because [Vignettes and the DBA] opened the door for us and made it more accessible, we thought it was time to take a swing and try retail,” says Keenan Pascal, founder of Token Bitters. The Edmonton-based company sells a variety of aromatic bitters for cocktails, made with and inspired by local flavours. The move to a physical storefront also presented an opportunity for Token Bitters to collaborate with JoAnne Pearce of Mock-Ups Mocktails on brand-new products. The festival will be the launching site for two haskap-based mocktail mixes: a sangria and a mulled wine, perfect for the holiday season.

Locally-inspired, locally-crafted bitters from Token Bitters, available at their first-ever storefront location.

Also new to in-person shopping are Tipsy Palm, Rylea Coyote, and Lawless Vintage, three well-known vintage clothing sellers who have united to form Las Vintage. “It gives you that opportunity to do something really over-the-top that’s a bit outrageous; it allows you to push those boundaries and go there, be fabulously tacky, which is something we all love to get behind,” says Rosalyn Lazaruk, the owner of Tipsy Palm as well as one of the interior designers responsible for the glitzy, maximalist aesthetic of the space. Being able to try on the clothes in-store allows customers to find the perfect fit, as well as to enjoy special touches like live music courtesy of local DJs. Even the offerings themselves are going above and beyond. “We’re showcasing pieces that otherwise aren’t really common, more of our special and luxe items,” says Rylea Wissink of Rylea Coyote.

A collage piece by artist Danielle Sweetnam, the crown jewel of Alexander & Rose’s vintage art, decor, and furniture collection.

Sharing the space with Las Vintage is another vintage shop, Alexander & Rose, a homewares, furniture, and fashion retailer specializing in one-of-a-kind finds from the 1940s to 1970s. This side of the space offers a more “demure” contrast to the bright and poppy Las Vintage, evoking the classic colours and tones of a mid-century modern home. Owner Zach Kahler takes pride in the wide array of offerings: “We’re showcasing the best of the best when it comes to unique art and fashion and funky stuff from many moons ago.” New and old also collide in one of Zach’s favourite pieces on display. “It’s an artist commission that we had, a collage from Danielle Sweetnam. We took a portrait of my grandmother that was taken in the 50’s, and she created a crazy collage installation. So I’m very excited for everyone to see that.”

Another space working double duty is the new home of both BUONGIORNO, a cozy breakfast space from the combined owners of Black Pearl, Café Amore, Da Capo Coffee, and Pasta Amore, and Larder, a new wine-and-charcuterie concept by RGE RD. “A larder is a cupboard where you would keep preserved foods, cured meats, smoked meats for the winter. Settling in, filling your larder in preparation for the winter months, and stocking up… it seemed appropriate, getting people ready for the typical Edmonton winter, and just providing a place where you could cocoon with all those tasty treats,” says RGE RD co-owner Caitlin Fulton. The menu includes a selection of premium cheeses, breads, pickles, and charcuterie meats from The Butchery, RGE RD’s recently-opened butcher shop, as well as a great selection of wines. Fellow co-owner Blair Lebsack is excited to create a space for more intimate connection: “No one’s coming here for a three-course meal. You’re coming here to sip on some wine, have some good conversation, and be able to snack on some things, that whole aspect of a nice evening out in a warm space to shelter you from the cold winter.” The wine bar will be open Wednesdays to Saturdays, 4–10 pm, and some special events are in the works: “We might have a night where someone in the wine world takes over the bar and pours their special selections…maybe one night we’ll be pouring all Canadian wines; we might have a night where we feature the wines of Hungary!”, Fulton says.

RGE RD co-owners Caitlin Fulton and Blair Lebsack are reinventing their offerings with Larder, a wine-and-charcuterie hotspot for chilly Edmonton evenings.

Other spaces to explore at Brick & Mortar include Libertine Fragrances, a fragrance shop offering unisex, Canadian-crafted, multi-layered scents in a soothing and revitalizing atmosphere, as well as a dedicated concept gallery and retail space for Vignettes themselves. The storefronts will open for the public to shop, dine, and explore every Tuesday to Saturday from November 23 to December 11.

“It’s an opportunity to look at a space through new eyes,” says Fulton. “We want to get people downtown. This is a lively, vibrant place to be if we make it so.” Kajner-Nonnekes believes that Brick & Mortar has the potential to be a long-term contributor to this vibrancy. “We’ve had a lot of fun doing this festival. We are excited for the future and to see if we can keep doing this. We’ll always be supporting our artists and designers… I think we’re going to be doing this for years to come.”

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