Festive Pop-Up Shop Boosts Local Non-Profits
By Rebecca Foster-Goodman Pop-up shops are a festive way to shop for the holidays, and Lake Forest Station takes that experience one step further. Customers can feel even better about their purchases because every dollar spent goes back to a local non-profit organization.
Located at the East Lake Forest Train Station, this charming venue is in its second year of operation. First Ward Alderman Jennifer Karras, who is chairman of the Lake Forest Marketing Committee, presented this shopping concept to Mayor George Pandaleon to increase foot traffic in Market Square as well as help local non-profits that were struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bridget Lamb and Lisa Chang volunteer their time for The School of St. Mary, one of this year's new non-profit organizations involved in the Pop-Up Shop
“The idea originated in the fall of 2020. We were deep into the pandemic, and so many people were shopping online,” Karras explained. “Going into the holiday season, we feared people were not going to shop locally. So, we created a Pop-Up Shop where people could feel good not only about supporting the local economy but also supporting some local non-profits.”
Once given the green light from the city, Karras began asking non-profits around town if they would be interested in participating in the new venture. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but organizations were excited not only about this new platform but also about the opportunity to get their names out into the community.
Susan McMahon has been managing the Pop-Up Shop since the beginning. “Nobody had any idea how successful the shop would be,” she said. “The community was unbelievably supportive of the organizations they knew and loved, but they were also quick to support the organizations they knew little or nothing about.”
This year’s Pop-Up welcomes some favorites from last year, including Mother’s Trust and Paws for Patrick, but also some new names, such as The School of St Mary. Each organization contributes items to be sold in the shop, from handmade ornaments and Lake Forest-logo merchandise to homemade candles and stylish totes. Proceeds from the items contributed by the non-profits go back to their organization, and profits from the sale of other Lake Forest items will be equally divided among the 14 groups.
McMahon points out that there is something for everyone. “We really made sure we had price points of all levels represented, whether it’s a unique housewarming gift for a new neighbor or a child looking for an inexpensive gift for a parent,” she said. “Every customer should feel good knowing that their purchase benefits an organization in our community. These truly are gifts that give back.”
In addition to the non-profits dedicating their products, each of the groups provides volunteers to take turns staffing the shop. This allows each non-profit to interact and educate the customers about their organization and allows the different non-profits to learn from each other. Visitors can also make monetary donations to any of the participating organizations while in the store.
Both Karras and McMahon recognize that the success of the shop is a result of generous donors willing to contribute and help the store’s mission. Karras adds that the success of the store would not be possible without Lake Forest Bank & Trust taking on the role of this year’s key sponsor. “Lake Forest Bank & Trust has been amazing in helping with the costs of running the shop,” said Karras.
McMahon believes that the success of Lake Forest Station is good, not only for the participating non-profits, but also for every business in Market Square. The more traffic we create, the more Market Square will thrive. There is enough room for all of us to be successful.”
Lake Forest Station is open Thursdays through Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m. until Dec. 30. For a complete list of special holiday events and shopping hours, please visit www.cityoflakeforest.com/LakeForestStation.