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Amherst bookstore launches pop-up shop for area artisans

— A national trend of having temporary stores fill vacant retail spaces arrived in downtown Amherst this month.

Food for Thought Books Collective, at 106 North Pleasant St., recently added a pop-up shop selling handcrafted items made by local artists to one section of its retail space. The goal is to increase the diversity of products available in the store and to promote a variety of community vendors. People passing by the storefront will notice a display of the items available, in the window, all of which are produced locally, and a sign for the pop-up shop, said Ana Lua Fontes, a volunteer at the worker-owned collective.

“A little part of the store is taken over by the pop-up store,” Fontes said. The arrival of the pop-up shop comes as Food for Thought, like many bookstores in college communities, are facing challenges, in part because students aren’t buying as many textbooks and other customers are reducing their printed book purchases, Fontes said. Food for Thought opened in 1976 and has specialized in radical and progressive books.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District, said he is aware of the popularity of the pop-up shop concept, with a recent conference he attended showcasing how they have filled empty storefronts in Pittsburgg, Pa. But he described Food for Thought’s idea as innovative to take a section of an existing store and turn it over to a pop-up shop as a means of diversifying the income stream.

“It’s absolutely a great direction to go in,” Krogh-Grabbe said. “Bookstores are such wonderful community resources, but they are struggling in this economy, especially the small independent bookstores.”

Fontes said the pop-up shop will give the members of the collective time to redo the business plan for the bookstore and, in the meantime, assist artists and others who have few other outlets to get their products to customers.

“This is a really good way to help the local economy,” Fontes said.

The pop-up shop includes a range of craftspeople who make their homes in the Pioneer Valley. Currently, eight different vendors are supplying products.

Among the items being sold include bodycare products from both Co-op 108 and Sirena Botanicals; handmade children’s clothes and bags by Isidoro Design, run by Carmina Fontes of Amherst; earrings and necklaces made by Miira Worth of Amherst; and photography of Pioneer Valley nature by Julie Gerstman. There will also be handmade pottery and flower planters.

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