Pop-Up MKE returning for second year

Entrepreneurs encouraged to apply for retail space

1037 S. Cesar E. Chavez Drive.

Pop-Up MKE, the public-private effort launched last year to fill vacant storefronts with temporary retail shops, is returning for a second year.

The program, administered by the City of Milwaukee Commercial Corridor team and Local Initiatives Support Corp., is also supported by Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., MKE United, and the Historic King Drive, Cesar Chavez Drive and North Avenue Marketplace Business Improvement Districts. It is part of LISC’s collaborative economic development effort, Brew City Match, and funded with a grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Pop-Up MKE is currently seeking applications for three commercial properties, and expects to select eight to 10 business owners to participate. Entrepreneurs will be able to use the spaces for 45-, 60- or 90-day stints at reduced rent, and will also receive business coaching, marketing support and mini grants to be used for marketing. The program is expected to begin in September.

The storefronts are located at 1037 S. Cesar E. Chavez Drive, 1860 W. Fond Du Lac Ave. and 2741 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Pop-Up MKE has received white box grants to build out two of them in preparation for the pop-up shops, said Sierra Starner-Heffron, economic development specialist on the Commercial Corridors team. The storefronts are smaller this year than last year, she said.

Pop-Up MKE aims to revitalize commercial corridors through entrepreneurship and help encourage new business owners. Last year, 18 entrepreneurs took part in the program. One of them, Bronzeville Collective, became a permanent tenant at 339 W. North Ave.

“They’re a really good example of what we’re trying to do and what can happen,” Starner-Heffron said. “I think it really helped that it was a group, a collective that came in rather than just an individual.”

“Much of Milwaukee’s economy is built upon the hard work and imagination of local entrepreneurs. From motorcycle makers to beer brewers, from electronic controls pioneers to insurance innovators, Milwaukee has always been fertile ground for startup businesses,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement. “The current generation of local entrepreneurs is likely to define our economic future, so Pop-Up MKE could be the start of Milwaukee’s next best idea.”

“Pop-Up MKE is a unique opportunity to activate vacant storefronts and help enhance important commercial corridors located in Milwaukee neighborhoods. Pop-Up MKE assists in reducing some of the barriers entrepreneurs face in establishing their businesses,” said Natanael Martinez, manager of the Commercial Corridors team, in a statement. “The hope is that these temporary spaces grow and become permanent storefronts throughout the city.”

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.