Popping up at 88 North Main Street — Before & After at Monster Market 2017
Monster Market’s humble beginnings lie at the north end of the Main Street Mall in Downtown Memphis.
I’d been tipped off about the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Open on Main Initiative by Shelda Edwards (legendofshelda.com). The program involved striking deals with the owners of vacant storefronts on Main Street, fixing them up just a little, and leasing them out to local small business owners for one month tenancies, free of charge.
I put together a super abstract proposal and applied for a big space, with lots of floor space, big windows, a bathroom, and working AC down on a high-traffic area of Main.
I didn’t get that space. But soon after, a second round of spaces opened up. They were smaller, uglier, less accessible, and farther away from the good foot traffic—but when I saw this squat little storefront, I knew it was the one! I was suddenly a lot more confident I could make this work.
88 N. Main was small. Really small—it was 175 square feet total, and nearly a third of that was behind the register.
It was also musty, had no working AC and no bathroom, and its walls were painted dark red.
DMC put in a portable AC unit, installed locks on the door to the creepy abandoned danced floor that lay beyond, and painted everything white, which did loads for the space. I had a well-ventilated blank canvas.
I still had to lock up shop and pretend to be a guest at the hotel across the street when I had to pee, but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
From there, the space was my domain. The rules were strict— you got the keys on the 1st of the month, you had to be open within 5 days, and you had to pass your keys off by the 31st. On the 1st, I was not entirely sure what I was doing, but I had five days to figure it out.
I’d been collecting tables, shelving, mannequins and shirt forms from thrift stores for the weeks leading up. I’d scored this amazing wooden magazine rack from the Bibles For China outlet, spray painted it black, and had a couple friends load its heavy ass into the shop to hold prints. I also managed to salvage some bright golden shelves and a bright yellow vinyl couch from Tako’s Treasures’ moving sale (@takostreasures). IKEA had side tables in yellow and black for just $2.99 a piece!
Shop Mucho (shopmucho.com) had the space the month before, and the tile worked well with her aesthetic. But with Monster Market, I’d branded myself into a yellow corner, so I wanted to cover as much of the it as possible. My friend/fellow weirdo creative Garracula (garracula.storenvy.com) showed me where to get bright yellow faux fur. Most of it went to wrap the front of the checkout counter after I posed for this photo.
Talented illustrator/professional framer Emil Orth (@emil.e.orth) comes by, and noticing the yellow theme, offers to bring in this amazing 6 ft. tall French vintage film poster (that he of course framed himself)!
I made my own sign, too! One day at Home Depot I noticed these 24” wide wooden discs. I painted it yellow house paint, then had my friend Dale Naron at West TN Trade & Print Co. cut the vinyl I’d designed (westtntradeandprintco.com).
He also installed all of the exterior vinyl— the shop logo and hours on the doors, and the yellow monster eyes in the two display windows.
Originally, I’d designed the display windows with 10” wide Monster Market logos at the bottoms, but in practice, it looked bad. Emil took the extra vinyl pieces with him to work at the frame shop and applied them to some leftover chunks of vintage mirror, which made for some really cool branded pieces to hang around the shop (you can see one in the next section over the checkout)
Being the creative source, art direction, and designer on a design project was super fulfilling. Usually you just get to wear one hat, but with Monster Market, I got to apply a multitude of skills— illustration, to create my shop mascot Manny the Monster; branding design; production design, to design my own merch, window vinyl, posters, packaging, business cards and tags; rudimentary carpentry, to DIY my own chalkboard A-frame sign; even skills like event planning for art exhibitions in my co-op days, postering for metal shows in my 20s, and the summer I worked at a dollar store in high school came out to play a role in Monster Market’s developing form.
But what was more fun was learning all the parts I had no experience in— like merchandising, store layout, interior design, and creating a tasteful retail environment. The success of any of those aspects was purely the influence of my good friend Reagan Crow— a seasoned retail merchandiser turned art teacher, with a really great eye! (@mushroomvintage)
Here’s a shot of me (above) where I was pretty much the entire month of October— behind the checkout counter in my tiny weird shop in the shadow of 100 N. Main, loving how everything around me was yellow and fuzzy, with horror movies playing on DVDs on the old television in the corner. Soon after, I decided I should do this again in 2018.