Pop-Up Fashion: Denver Retailers Go Mobile

Taking note of the food-truck boom, Denver Fashion Truck and Brick & Mortar General Store have adapted a mobile business model for their own entrepreneurial endeavors. Moving away from traditional brick-and-mortar stores, these local retailers are opting for a movable shopping experience.
Food trucks provide several advantages to business owners, including reduced overhead costs and the ability to reach various target markets across different urban neighborhoods. 
And these benefits of convenience and cost transfer nicely to the consumer. Why go shopping if the shop will come to you?
The movable vision
Adrian and Desiree Gallegos-Barragan, the husband-and-wife team behind Denver Fashion Truck, envisioned opening a boutique in Denver for several years, but they were discouraged by the price tag that came with popular locations like Broadway or 32nd Street. "Overhead costs were just ridiculous," says Desiree, who had been freelancing in the fashion industry for more than seven years. 
Determined to see their vision through, she and Adrian began to research other options. They discovered mobile retailers, particularly in the Los Angeles market, and saw that these entities were thriving. If going mobile was feasible in highly competitive markets like L.A., the couple felt confident it could be successful in Denver. It follows that they launched Denver Fashion Truck in May 2013.
Brick & Mortar, open for business.
Allison Shaw and Tran Wills also studied mobile retailers in California and New York before opening Brick & Mortar General Store in June 2013. Beyond the financial advantages of this model, the idea of going to their customers and customizing the store to appeal to various target audiences was a huge draw. 
"We can adjust our strategy or our inventory based on where we are going to set up and the type of event we will be attending," says Shaw. The lower overhead costs and mobile capabilities also give them "a lot more freedom to purchase new inventory and develop interesting display materials."
Unique, mostly local inventories
Denver Fashion Truck primarily sells merchandise from local artists and designers. "We definitely like edgy, funky things that are original and not typical," says Desiree in regards to the work of the shop's 16 local designers, four artists, and one California artist who's originally from Denver. Many of the store's designers emphasize vintage materials and aesthetics with their products, and others work with repurposed materials. "We want to stay true to the creative culture we have [in Denver]," she explains.
In addition to local vendors, Brick & Mortar carries an eclectic collection of unique work from designers Wills and Shaw have come across during their travels as well as artists they discovered on Etsy, word of mouth from colleagues or in magazines and blogs.
Truck shops
Each truck maintains a semblance of its history and original charm after receiving minor cosmetic and structural tweaks, not to mention mechanical fixes.
The Denver Fashion Truck is a repurposed postal service truck. Already gutted upon purchase, the truck required minimal renovations, allowing Desiree and Adrian to focus on building a distinct character surrounding their store. 
"We were shooting for a rustic, modern feel," says Desiree. The wood-paneled walls and floors embody a old-meets-new, Denver-esque vibe that appeals to men and women alike.
Brick & Mortar is housed in a 1964 Aristocrat low-liner trailer. Wills found the low-liner on Craigslist. The two were happy to discover the truck had fared pretty well over the years. 
"The previous owner had taken very good care of it," says Allison. While renovating, they kept the original appliances and interiors, adding only new seat cushions, carpet and a fresh coat of paint to transform it into a chic caravan of hip apparel and accessories.
The Denver Fashion Truck sets up shop at The Bug Theatre in northwest Denver.

Both stores turn to social media and the Internet to keep their customers informed. "Social media is our way to connect with everybody," says Desiree. Brick and Mortar uses Instagram for "sneak peeks of new inventory and photos of locations," according to Shaw. In addition to Facebook and Instagram, each store also uses Twitter to announce locations, hours and updates.
The future of mobile retail
After just a few months, both retailers are already planning ahead. Desiree says their goal is to purchase a second Denver Fashion Truck; with two trucks, they can dedicate one to women's fashion and one to men's fashion.
Shaw and Wills hope to upgrade to a larger trailer, enabling them to do more regional and national events. "We'd also like to open an actual brick and mortar version of Brick & Mortar. Then use the trailer as a way to still participate in events throughout the community and keep up the spirit of being a mobile retailer," says Shaw.
Whether entering into the national market or stepping up their game locally, the mission for these moving shops is deeply rooted in community. More than standalone shops, these retailers are always searching for new ways to connect with their customers and other mobile vendors.
A community of pop-up vendors exists throughout Denver, and both stores are excited to be a part of the cultural exchange within it as well as build forward momentum. 
Explains Brick & Mortar's Shaw: "With things like trailers and food trucks, one truck complements an event, but several make an event."

Read more articles by Stephanie Wolf.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Stephanie has spent the past 12 years living out her dreams as a professional ballet dancer. In conjunction with her performing career, she's developed a varied writing portfolio.
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