Retailers interested in signing a long-term lease downtown are using ArtPrize as a testing ground.

This year, Moosejaw, a retailer from Madison Heights, set up shop ahead of ArtPrize to find out if Grand Rapids has the customer base to support a full-time store, and Kendall College of Art & Design partnered with Goodwill on a three-day pop-up shop to sell upcycled products created by KCAD students.

If previous pop-up shops are any indication, the ventures have a good chance of making it — or at least learning some valuable lessons.

Chris Hagist, general manager of Moosejaw’s Grand Rapids pop up at 410 Ionia Ave. SW, said the company, which originally was an online-only retailer, has been using the pop-up model as a way of testing new locations outside of Michigan, and it recently opened a location in Detroit using the pop up-to-brick-and-mortar model.

He said Grand Rapids seems like a good location for the company, because many of its online customers are coming from West Michigan zip codes.

Moosejaw signed a six-month lease at the Ionia location, which is near the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, after which it will make a decision about a permanent space.

Hagist said so far, things are going well, with the company performing especially well during its opening weekend.

“The grand opening exceeded expectations slightly,” he said.

He said while the second week “fell off” a bit from Week 1, the store still was seeing good traffic.

“This is a (truer) week,” he said.

Hagist added while ArtPrize might be attracting some people, he thinks many of the store’s customers aren’t necessarily being driven to the store by the event.

Hagist said foot traffic over the next six months will be a big factor in whether the store stays in Grand Rapids.

“We need to see the traffic and the support,” he said.

KCAD and Goodwill saw great success with their pop-up shop and already are discussing plans for future collaboration.

To read the full story, visit the Grand Rapids Business Journal's website, or pick up this week's paper.