Entrepreneurs open pop-up shop in empty uptown building

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Photo by Leanne Stahulak

Sophia Blasi (left) and Emily Coyne (right) transformed the old Follett bookstore into a charming pop-up shop on Friday, May 7, featuring products from Coyne’s brand Emily O and Bows and Blasi’s brand Urban Luxe.

By Leanne Stahulak

The abandoned Follett’s Miami Co-op Bookstore on the corner of Poplar and High Street bustled with shoppers last Friday afternoon, May 7. The empty space was repurposed into a temporary, one day pop-up shop featuring two student-owned lifestyle brands, Urban Luxe and Emily O and Bows.

These online brands primarily serve a digital consumer base, and pop-up shops present an opportunity for them to test new products, engage with customers in person and leave shoppers with a desire to look for even more items on their websites. The inventory for the shop is the same as their online catalog, and any leftover items from the popup are available for online purchase. 

Emily Coyne, a Miami junior majoring in emerging technology, business and design (ETBD), hosted a pop-up shop in the bookstore last November, but this is the first time she collaborated with sophomore fashion entrepreneurship major Sophia Blasi. 

Blasi’s brand, Urban Luxe, focuses on women’s fashion and “trendy, affordable streetwear” that pushes women to “find their personal style.” At the pop-up shop, Blasi showcased several seamless and ruffled crop tops, colorful print camis and bold dresses. With all the foot traffic coming into the shop, Blasi said she doubled the sales she would make on a regular day of online purchases. 

Students and their families crowded Uptown on the gorgeous Friday afternoon one week before graduation. Coyne and Blasi placed sign stands outside the doors to Follett to invite people into the pop-up shop and attract shoppers who didn’t hear about the event on social media. Photo by Leanne Stahulak

Coyne’s pop-up shop offered home decor and entertainment pieces from her two merchandise lines, “Busy Brunching” and “good to see you.” Products from each line featured one of those slogans on them in an elegant cursive script, from the stemless wine glasses to the leather coasters to the bamboo cheese board stocked with utensils and a removable slate insert. 

The two women are also entrepreneurship minors, and as they’ve gotten to know each other, they’ve considered the idea of a collaboration. Blasi said she was excited to see it come to life this spring. 

“[Emily’s] great, she has an amazing brand and her merchandise is so cute,” Blasi said. “We’re similar people, but we have different styles, and we [just found a way to] work really well together.” 

Coyne’s family happens to know the owner of the empty building in Oxford, and they got permission from the owner to host the pop-up shop for the day. Coyne and Blasi set up piping and white drop cloth around the front entrance, creating a nice backdrop for the merchandise and blocking off the rest of the empty space. 

Dozens of people stopped in over the course of the few hours the pop-up shop was open. Several customers said they heard about it on Instagram or Coyne’s YouTube channel, but others happened to walk by and see the shop was open. They bounced back and forth between Blasi’s clothing and Coyne’s home decor pieces. Photo by Leanne Stahulak

Renovations to the old Follett bookstore have been delayed for several years due to environmental issues and resolving legal complications. The building, located at 110 E. High Street, has sat empty for several years since the bookstore closed. On the day of the pop-up shop, the doors were wide open and sign stands with balloons attached to them invited people to come in and shop the two brands. 

Both women promoted the event on their Instagram pages, and Coyne advertised it on her YouTube channel as well. Several of the customers who went into the pop-up shop were fans of Coyne’s lifestyle vlog, which has nearly 24,000 subscribers and racks up anywhere from 3k to 12k views per video. 

Emilia Lloyd, a first-year ETBD and marketing major, loves to watch Coyne’s channel. She watched Coyne’s videos before coming to Miami and appreciated how the vlogger showcased different aspects of college life and campus community. She also loved to see the collaboration between the two women. 

“I think [Emily and Sophia] are cute and it’s a good way to get [new customers],” Lloyd said. “A lot of people nowadays start small businesses when they’re in college, so I think [the pop-up shop] is a good way to support them.” 

Coyne started selling merchandise in October 2020, deciding it was time to expand her brand after she felt she gained a good following on social media. She’s hosted other pop-up shops around her hometown in the Cleveland area. 

“I’m just excited to keep growing the brand, getting the name out, and having more people know about it,” Coyne said at the pop-up event. “And just growing and expanding my online business as well.” 

Coyne’s sisters and mom also helped out at the shop, ringing customers up and talking to shoppers about the different items available. Ann Coyne  said she is proud to see her daughter’s brand grow on social media and through her merchandising lines, and she’s happy to see Coyne and Blasi’s entrepreneurial studies go into practice. 

“I love that they are actually hands-on doing what they’re learning about,” Ann Coyne said. “I also love that the two women collaborated for this, because Emily’s always a big supporter of other women in small businesses. We’re really proud of her because they’re collaborating together to do this.”

Coyne brought in a simple, elegant shelf to showcase her entertainment and home decor items from her two merchandise lines. The cheese board was a “pop-up shop special” and on sale for $10 less than its original price. The insulated wine tumbler with the bow logo was another popular hit at the shop that day. Photo by Leanne Stahulak

Blasi also appreciates that she and Coyne are supporting and boosting up each other’s businesses. 

“Women have had such a disadvantage with business and the workforce, and I think it’s just such a cool thing to support other women doing amazing things,” Blasi said.  

At just 18-years-old, Blasi started up Urban Luxe as an e-commerce brand in January 2020. Since she was in high school, the fashion major has loved hosting pop-up shops out of her living room, using items she thrifted and experimenting with different styles and looks. When she started pursuing fashion entrepreneurship at Miami, Blasi decided to take her aspirations and make them a reality. 

“I never really thought it would turn into a whole business. I kind of just thought of it as a hobby,” Blasi said. “But now it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. That’s what makes me most proud and excited for the company, and to see how much it’s gonna grow in the future.”

Chair and Director for the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship, Tim Holcomb, praised Blasi and Coyne for doing and experiencing entrepreneurship first-hand. 

“Whether they choose to be a founder of a startup or to innovate inside of a big company…  they’re prepared because of experienced entrepreneurship,” Holcomb said. “So these opportunities, whether it’s a structured part of our curricular or co-curricular program, or what we refer to as a ‘side hustle,’  the outcome is the same — the students learn, they experience it and they are in a better position to succeed.”

Blasi and Coyne look forward to doing more pop-up events in the future, both at Miami and in their respective hometowns.