Durham County

Open for business, but not for long. Shops to pop up in downtown Durham

The American Tobacco Campus in Durham.
The American Tobacco Campus in Durham. The News & Observer

The newest store or restaurant downtown won’t be there for long, and that’s the idea.

The American Tobacco Campus is taking the idea of a startup business to the micro, short-term level.

Called “PopUp @ American Tobacco Campus,” startups will get to test their business ideas in the former Wedgie’s sandwich shop space at 359 Blackwell St. near the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and Durham Performing Arts Center.

The popups will only get the space for two to three weeks. A dozen startups have already applied, including a vegan restaurant, a soap company, a furniture company and three apparel companies, said Adam Klein, director of strategy for Capitol Broadcasting Co., which owns the American Tobacco Campus. American Tobacco and entrepreneurs will pick the first three businesses and a new batch every quarter.

Klein said people pass that location a million times a year based on Durham Bulls tickets sales, DPAC sales, special events like the Music on the Lawn series, parking-garage use and employees. Between American Tobacco and American Underground workers, about 5,000 people work there.

The furniture company that applied on Wednesday for the Popup @ American Tobacco Campus is MicMag by Me, owned by Kerri Hall. MicMag by Me is based in King, a small city between Winston-Salem and Mount Airy. The employees are just Hall and 18 factory workers outside Hickory. Hall recently received a $10,000 grant from NC IDEA, a private foundation that support entrepreneurs and is located in American Tobacco, so she hear about the PopUp that way.

Hall describes her business, which ships directly to customers, as “heirloom quality, trend-forward customizable upholstered furniture.” It’s designed and handmade in North Carolina.

If her business is chosen for the PopUp, it will be its first storefront. Hall said she’s fine with the two to three weeks’ length of the PopUp businesses.

“I think that they’re testing out what works best, too,” she said.

The PopUps’ rent to American Tobacco will be 10 percent of gross sales. Hall said she thought that was fair.

Businesses can apply at popupdurham.com.

The first PopUp will open in August.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan
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