Chameleon Shoppes celebrated its initial April run on Thursday, April 25 with a gathering of local officials, partners and vendors highlighting a month filled with pop-up retail opportunity in downtown Minneapolis.

The initiative focuses on providing retail space in the downtown core along Nicollet for local retailers to showcase their products in a brick-and-mortar space. The goal is to help the retailers thrive, make sales, gain exposure and build a strong foundation for future successes while also filling vacant downtown retail space.

On Thursday, Council Members Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5) and Steve Fletcher (Ward 3) joined Neka Creative president and owner Rosemary Ugboajah and West Broadway Business and Area Coalition (WBBAC) business resources coordinator Felicia Perry in celebrating the Chameleon Shoppes pop-up, meeting with the vendors involved and discussing why initiatives like Chameleon can help our community thrive. Dan Collison, director of downtown partnerships for the mpls downtown council, helped lead and facilitate Chameleon Shoppes and also provided introductory remarks for Thursday’s event.

Approximately 50 vendors took part in Chameleon Shoppes in April–half from Shop Northside retailers through WBBAC, and half making up local retailers from across our community. The vendors filled three retail spaces plus a hair salon in the floor and skyway areas of Gaviidae Common. It launched May 1 and ran the first full week of April, then transitioned to Wednesdays through Fridays the rest of the month.

Chameleon Shoppes plans to continue their pop-up retail experience in a smaller footprint within Gaviidae for May 1-3 and May 8-10, as well as timeframes in late summer/early fall.

Perry said being part of Chameleon Shoppes has helped Shop Northside vendors showcase their products in a new market. Their work and commitment toward supporting businesses’ economic, social development and vitality for North Minneapolis shines through in this pop-up retail opportunity.

Council Member Ellison said this is a chance to show the incredible products being produced by talented makers from the North Minneapolis area. Chameleon puts their businesses and products on display in the city’s core, helping downtown embrace the rest of the city’s creativity.

“In North Minneapolis we’re often addressed from a deficit standpoint saying North Minneapolis needs things. North Minneapolis needs a hand out, North Minneapolis needs help,” Ellison said. “Where as I think these shops illustrate that there is a lot of abundance in North Minneapolis. There is a lot of creativity, there is a lot of ingenuity, there is a lot of entrepreneurial spirit coming out of North Minneapolis, and I think that is represented here in this shop.”

Council Member Fletcher said retail pop-ups like Chameleon Shoppes help with the vitality along Nicollet. Downtown continues to work toward a strong retail scene, and these shoppes provided that feeling this month.

“We’re this fabulous creative city that has all these creative assets all over the city that we want to highlight and have these great ideas, but we haven’t always had retail space that is configured to really allow these ideas in,” he said. “This is a really creative solution to a problem we’ve really been struggling with.”

Neka Creative provided creative design and marketing work for Chameleon Shoppes as part of its pro bono program called Why the World Needs Your Brand. Anchored on inclusion, Ugboajah said Neka strives to support programs that will give opportunities like the ones provided through Chameleon Shoppes. Their brand strategy and identity work helped make Chameleon Shoppes possible.

Ugboajah said they were prepared to help the initiative thrive. They weren’t expecting, however, to have such a robust, dynamic retailer group that brought as much energy, creativity and passion as they did.

“When we had this idea, we were not privy to the great products and passion that the vendors had to bring to the table. So that only enhanced it. It’s amazing to see this dream come to life,” Ugboajah said. “It’s a testament to what we can accomplish when we are intentional and committed. I hope it serves as an example for all of us because it is really just the beginning. Minneapolis can live, work and thrive, this is an example of that.”

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