Infinite Pop, a new artisan-run pop-up shop at 410 S. Warren St., shows exactly what happens when a collective of candle makers, photographers, chefs, musicians, sign makers, clothing creators and more put their heads together to make the holiday season brighter.
And while downtown Syracuse is not a field of dreams, as the recent closure of the artsy venue The Vault attests, that still doesn’t stop others from making things happen.
Entrepreneur Michael John Heagerty got the ball rolling, but the shop would not be where it is without help from his friends. Heagerty has been promoting the shop with a slogan of “21 vendors for 20 days,” as Infinite Pop stays open this week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Saturday, Dec. 24. And with the Big Yellow Fellow bicycle contraption getting tucked away for the winter, Heagerty’s main tasks are staffing the shop, welcoming customers and accepting cash or credit for the wares.
A number of diverse craftspeople work the Pop shop, including artists Kara Cook and Ryan Wood, Sara Seib from Cuppa Candles, Cayetano Valenzuela of Black Rabbit Studio, musician Max Puglisi (also part of the guitar collective known as the Guitarchive Project), Chris Deutschman from Like You Mean It Way and Rebecca Alexander of Rebecca Stella Art. The established artists already have their own boutiques and consignment spaces, and are frequent participants of local markets.
“We’re all different artists working together,” said Cook, who has a strong focus on street scenes and abandoned buildings. “It brings in all types of people. It’s more exposure.” Cook has participated in independent markets and showed her work in restaurants, among other places, but she notes that it’s comfortable working with this group and sharing in the potential benefits.
“It’s a Chelsea Market for Syracuse,” added Deutschman.
The brightly lit space features Black Rabbit Studio hand-painted signs that coax potential customers to drink coffee or pay homage to our city, among other sayings. Genuine Charlie Sam T-shirts and funky clothing hang from a rack. Brilliantly colored ukuleles from Ish Guitars adorn a wall.
“Everything is local, which is most important,” said Heagerty. “It’s a celebration of the anti-ordinary.”
“It’s great that I don’t have to stay in one place and man my table,” said Wood with a chuckle. “I can leave and come back. It’s freeing.” The featured artists come to hang out or to relieve Heagerty; they all have sympathy for him because he has to be there throughout Infinite Pop’s run.
The project comes amid the kibosh on the Delevan Center studio spaces, the now-dissolved Funky Flea, and the currently idled Salt and Pepper Markets. “There is a hole,” said Valenzuela, noting the current lack of arts-focused markets. Valenzuela, who offers personally designed and hand-painted products, was previously involved with an artist-run market in Oswego. He also has a solution for the venue void: “When there isn’t a marketplace, make one.”
Valenzuela candidly admitted that an artist’s life in this mid-sized city isn’t easy. Not being able to participate in shows means a loss of income. And if there aren’t opportunities to show products, the creations pile up in the artist’s studio.
Each of the artists has also witnessed a customer’s a-ha moment: People compliment their work, they ask about the business and where they’re located, they inquire where to purchase more of a particular product and ask about upcoming appearances. So Infinite Pop is essentially a test run to see what works and what doesn’t.
“The holidays are the busiest time for me with what I sell, and it’s probably the same for the rest of us,” said candle maker Seib, who often makes appearances in Utica and at the House of S. Jaye indie markets. She added that more artistic opportunities such as Infinite Pop would catalyze her passion. Her homemade soy candles fit the mold of unique mugs she comes across.
Uniqueness is indeed the way to go: During Infinite Pop’s holiday run, artisans were willing to take time out of their schedules to hold workshops. Previous events included a presentation on beekeeping, a ceramics class, a candlelight yoga session, a tapas-and-singles event, music performances by Guitarchive Project guests Tim Herron, Jeff Martin and Cory Tyson, a cake decorating workshop, and the Java Draw on Dec. 18 that merged coffee with artistic ambitions.
Infinite Pop has also hosted several food-focused events. There will be a Festivus Celebration on Friday, Dec. 23, 7 p.m., featuring cuisine by Chef 4 Rent. The menu will include tapas, bagel crisps, homemade spaghetti with blistered tomato garlic relish, meatloaf cupcakes and whipped potatoes. The event costs $40 per person.
Heagerty is currently renting the Warren Street spot on a monthly basis through Bob Doucette of Paramount Realty Group. Should the Doucette sell the space, the artists will have to vacate.
Yet Infinite Pop was filled and ready for business in 48 hours after the initial social media group conversation. Heagerty and the participating artists will soon discuss post-holiday plans, fielding thoughts regarding what the next steps of the venture might entail.
“Ideally, we’d like to keep it going,” said Wood. “We all bought into it.”
The shop will continue after the holiday weekend is over. Heagerty said in a recent phone interview that they will remain in the back of Dey’s Plaza until the end of January.
Seib added, “The beauty of creative people is that this could get pretty creative, especially when we’re all putting our heads together.”
“It turns the lights on,” said Heagerty, who takes pride in knowing there is one less empty storefront in the city.
Puglisi, a musician and nightlife organizer for Otro Cinco, checked out the space as soon as Heagerty came in possession of the keys. “Here was this dry and crappy room, and we were going to fill it,” he said. “It’s cross-pollination, a way to bridge a gap between art, music and the local food industry. I want to be inspired by the art, and I hope the artists are inspired by the music. And we’re going to build relationships.”
“We’re all on a path,” said Valenzuela. “And by working together, we’ll only make that path bigger.”