Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

The pop-up opportunity

By Evie Andreou

FROM KNITWEAR to custom-made shoes, from ceramics to homemade food, the pop-up festival on Makarios Avenue aims to give a festive adrenalin boost to what was once Nicosia’s busiest shopping street and provide would-be entrepreneurs a chance to test their wares on the Christmas gift buying public.

The festival at the City Plaza area of Makarios Avenue has been organised for the second year in a row by the Nicosia municipality. The choice of venue is deliberate.

Devastated by competition from the malls, high shop rents and economic recession, the once bustling avenue is a shadow of its former self with many empty shops.

The municipality hopes the festival will draw Christmas shoppers back. And for start up businesses, the temporarily subsidised shop space provides a great opportunity to test their merchandise on the wider public.

“We received around 70 requests for the 27 shops we had available this year, and along with other various events, lectures, plays, etc we managed to accommodate 40 participants,” said Xenios Symeonides, coordinator of the pop-up festival.

He said that the committee had a hard time choosing participants since they were all highly creative.

The successful candidates pay a €150 monthly participation fee while the municipality covers utility costs and provides free Wi-Fi coverage and technical support.

Many artists and creators with similar interests are sharing shops to reduce set up costs for the festival which lasts from November 15 to January 15.

For example, five women have come together to create their All-Things-Baby-Shop which sells paintings, patchwork blankets, crocheted baby toys, felt toys and stickers for nurseries.

“With very little cost, we managed to transform the place into a very beautiful baby shop,” said Maria Panayidou, one of the creators.

Fabric owls of different sizes rest on the branches of a painted tree on the wall while at the back, drawn curtains reveal a baby station with a changing bed to accommodate mothers that need to change nappies or even breastfeed their babies.

She said that the festival had given them an opportunity to present their work, but also the incentive to pursue it professionally.
“People come into the shop and ask where else they can find our creations, and some have even expressed an interest in selling them in their own shops,” Panayidou said.

feature pop up - Home made soup on sale

Walking around the shops and seeing the level of ingenuity and determination at work is inspiring.

Take Andria Antoniou. Surrounded by knitted reindeer slippers, babies’ shoes, scarves, handbags and even necklaces made with yarn, she explains how after losing her first job as a graphic designer due to the economic crisis, she took advantage of what her grandmother had taught her and decided to start her own mobile knitwear business.

“I could never sit with my arms crossed. I’m young I have appetite for work and I wanted to go on with my life. I grew up surrounded by threads, balls of yarn and fabrics but I never imagined what would follow,” Antoniou said.

She started her own brand, By Androula, (a more Cypriot version of her name) and one of her goals is to preserve the knitting skills she learned from her grandmother and mother by combining new and traditional techniques to bring a modern twist to her work.

“This has helped me stand on my own two feet financially and I enjoy what I do. I am the third generation in my family to take needles in my hands and create. I knit everything and I make clothes, hand bags and accessories,” Antoniou said.

She believes her participation in the festival will help her reach a wider clientele.

“The pop up festival was a huge opportunity for me because they me gave the chance, even for two months, to have a base and meet more people, I’m measuring my strength now to see if my business does well.”

Kyriacos Ephraim and Yiangos Yiangou, friends and currently business partners, aim to monetise their soup-making skills and promote local products. They too are taking part in the pop-up festival to see if their venture is feasible in the real world.

“We wanted to set up a Cypriot shop and sell our and our friends’ products and not buy from companies. We seized the opportunity the pop up festival offered,” Ephraim said over a shot of zivania, produced in his home area of Pitsilia.

“It is a great opportunity for young people. It is like a test period. You can see how many expenses a shop has. Now we pay no utilities, so we are not afraid to try and see if our business can be viable, otherwise you need a large investment to set up a shop.”

Various paintings that cover the walls are created by their artist friends and Ephraim himself, while his grandmother agreed to let him borrow her traditional grape press as part of the shop’s décor.

Each day they serve the soup of the day, mushroom, courgette, trahanas, louvana (yellow split pea) prepared by Yiangou “who loves to make soup”, Ephraim said, adding that many other local products are also on sale.

“What the municipality did is superb. You cannot get the funds nowadays to set up a new business. But what about all those that have ideas but no money?” Ephraim said.

Even better established designers, artists and craftspeople are taking the opportunity to promote their works to a wider clientele.

“We are a collective of four designers and artists and set up a studio about two years ago in another part of the town, but we transferred our shop here, to show more people who we are and what we do,” said graphic designer Omiros Panayides. “We started as a studio and gradually added the work of other people so now we also host 40 Cypriot designers.”

Their shop hosts a wide variety of items including paintings, jewellery, furniture and lighting fixtures, all designed and created by local and Greek artists.
The festival also includes art exhibitions, workshops, lectures and and a wide range of children’s activities. The programme can be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/popupfestival2014) or at the booklets available in all the festival’s shops. Shops are open daily except Mondays from 10.30am until 1.30pm and 3pm until 8.30pm.

From December 7 until January 2, Makarios Avenue will also host a ‘Christmas Street’ co-organised by the Nicosia municipality and Lefkosiazo. Wooden houses will be set up offering festive treats, food and beverages. The section of Makarios Avenue from Evagoras Street to Arnaldas Street will be closed to traffic from December 1 until January 4.

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