Telling Tales: The story behind our pop-up shop success August 29 2015

Earlier this month we opened our shop doors for the first time and hundreds of you came to visit. Read the story of how it all went down, and what we learned along the way.

Successful pop-up shop

Twelve days have never whizzed by so speedily. It seems like no sooner had we our pop-up shop up and running before we were repacking and returning the keys. But now that the dust has settled we figured it was time to take stock and share our fantastic journey with the people who made it all worthwhile – our customers.

It all started back in April when we first applied for a shop space through a Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council initiative that aims to revitalise unused spaces and support local business. The location was on George’s Street Upper, close to the lovely People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire. Though a short trip away from Dublin City Centre, we realised that this was our chance to finally create a space that would showcase what we were all about – a high-quality selection of products based on children’s books and illustrations.

After what seemed like forever (but was in reality just a few weeks) we received the all-clear. But following the first wave of manic glee there came a dawning realisation: we’d only two months to get everything ready. Having never opened our own shop space before, the amount of work seemed a little overwhelming at first. Where would we even start?

It was clearly time to roll up our sleeves and get organised. Thankfully, we already had a good head start: we’d lots of great new stock stored away and ready for display, a range of fantastic suppliers to order a variety of products from, and a small but passionate customer base that could help us spread the word. But still we needed more. After all, if opportunity was knocking, we were going to sprint to the door to answer.

Our storytelling marketing material

While we were busy as bees working behind the scenes, we still needed to somehow win the attention of total strangers and let them know who we were and what we do. We’d also need to do this in a way that represented the qualities that make our products so appealing: imagination, storytelling and creativity.

To that end we were blessed to work with the immensely talented Ger from UNIT Design Studio, who immediately understood where we were coming from. After a quick brainstorming session, we let him off to work his magic. A short while after our meeting he got back to us with a concept for a four-part series of A6-size flyers, each opening with the classic fairytale-inspired opening line ‘Once there was...’ and continuing with nice, clear copy that briefly summarised one of four well-known stories. In order to ‘Get the full story’, viewers would simply have to pop along to our shop (all essential details such as time, location and contact info went on the reverse of the flyer).

Tales for Tadpoles flyers

Our four-part flyer series sitting inside a café window. Design by UNIT studio

Once printed off, it was off to every café, bar, museum or cultural space we could think of to distribute our lovely new promotional material (always asking for permission first of course!). Anyone who brought a flyer along to the shop also got a 10% discount in store, if they could bear to part with it that is.

Finally setting up shop

After selecting the best products and advertising when and where we’d be opening the pop-up, the next major challenge was actually filling the unit and displaying products in an appealing way. This was probably the trickiest part of the whole process as we had so much more space to work with than ever before. As anyone familiar with the unit will already know, it’s normally used as a shared space as designers, artists, photographers and the like pool their work and resources together to showcase their wares collectively. This time, however, all that space was ours alone.

Dun Laoghaire pop-up space

Before: The pop-up space in Dun Laoghaire before we got to work on it.

To help make the most of it we contacted our friends at Rocker Lane Workshop, who specialise in making beautiful furniture using 100% reclaimed maple (which they normally source from dance halls, school halls and basketball courts from around the country). They provided us with shelving units, a coat stand, frames, stools and dozens of specially made storage boxes that we could use to present our products in the way that best suited them.

Tales for Tadpoles pop-up shop

After: How the front of the shop looked once we'd set it all up.

To complete the welcoming, personal look of the shop, we spent hours on arts and crafts as we typed, printed and hand-cut all product descriptions and prices. We did the same with little illustrator biographies, which we then framed next to their respective works. For visitors with small children, we also created a little reading room towards the back of the shop, complete with tiny chairs, a table and a selection of books to help keep the little ones happy!

Dun Laoghaire – the place and the people

Dun Laoghaire has always been a place we loved visiting, especially on those warm sunny days when the glorious sea views are most clear. Then there is the meticulously kept People’s Park – happily right across the road from our shop – which offers a real haven of tranquillity for visitors and locals alike. No doubt these are the attractions for which the town is best known, and perhaps rightly so. But it was the people that really made our time in Dun Laoghaire so special. Unfailingly warm, welcoming and supportive of what we were trying to do, all those who visited our shop helped make the experience an unforgettable one.

It seemed that on any given day, there was some kind of treat in store for us: whether it was customers who were excited by the works of a particular illustrator, children (or parents) entranced by musical jewellery boxes, or even a visit by a passing celebrity (Saoirse Ronan and her mum, would you believe!), the pleasant surprises just kept stacking up.

A special mention should go to the lady who described how her niece created a character based on the colour code on the inside of a cereal box. After giving her character the name of Mischievous Melba, the little girl wrote a letter to Elmer creator David McKee explaining how she came up with the idea. Mr McKee was impressed enough to reply with a letter of his own in which he complimented her inspired creation and suggested including it in one of his future books!

What we learned (and where we go from here)

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant

Elmer was one popular elephant among our customers!

The big lesson we took from our all-too-brief time as a pop-up shop was that age does not curtail interest when it comes to illustration. When there’s a connection with certain illustrations or characters, it doesn’t matter whether you’re age six or sixty, the excitement was still clearly in evidence in how you responded to the items we had out, and the space that we displayed them in. It couldn’t have made us happier to see that the appetite for children’s illustration was not just alive, but thriving.

So what now? Well, the very exciting news is that we are opening a little shop on Nassau Street, right in the heart of Dublin City, in October! We’ll keep you posted on the details, but for now just know that your enthusiasm for our shop in Dun Laoghaire was a signal we received loud and clear, and it’s made us even more determined to make the next part of the story the best one yet.