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Downtown Shreveport aims to fill empty storefronts with Pop UPs

Kate Archer Kent

The city of Shreveport and the Downtown Development Authority have organized the city’s first Pop UP Project. It aims to give regional businesses a two-week opportunity to have free, storefront real estate in downtown Shreveport. 

The Pop UP concept is active in a number of U.S. cities. Business owners get a feel for what it’s like to sell their products in a new location, without the commitment of signing a lease or paying utilities, according to Liz Swaine, executive director of the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority. She hopes businesses across the region consider the offer.

“We would love businesses from East Texas, Arkansas, central Louisiana -- anybody who wants to come up here for two weeks and do it, we say come on because there’s probably the need for your product. There’s probably a big group of people who want to taste whatever you cook!” Swaine said.

Shreveport’s first Pop UP Project will located in the Red River district. Swaine expects about five proposals will be selected, but that could vary based on space requirements requested in proposals.

Entrepreneur Jonathan Burks of Bossier City founded The Lighthouse business plan, a combined restaurant/entertainment venue that he’s been working on since 2012. He was the first business to apply for the Pop UP.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to show the downtown development what we can do, the vision that we have, and see it executed. So it’s a great opportunity for us to get our business off the ground,” Burks said.

Swaine views the Pop UP Project as geared toward any retail or restaurant enterprise. But she says new restaurant concepts are especially suited for this two-week trial.

The Lighthouse’s marketing director Lydell Smith is keenly aware that if his business is chosen, he will be able to showcase the best of what is authentic about Shreveport. He feels there is strong demand for local products.

“You see a mentality in this city change, especially through young eaters who are saying we want more farm-to-table. We want more organic. We want more creative, outside-the-box. We don’t want to go to the chain restaurant every day,” Smith said.

Pop UP proposals are due April 24 with the winning businesses notified soon after. The first Pop UP runs May 12 - 23. Swaine says future Pop UP Projects are planned for the fall and holiday season in downtown Shreveport.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.