Behind the Brand: Pop Up Grocer | Neighborhood Goods

Behind the Brand: Pop Up Grocer

Written By: Devin Williams-McCrary

Published on September 10, 2020

Pop Up Grocer sometimes feels like it came from the mind of a traveling mad scientist, who’s really into food and has a fresh Instagram aesthetic. Their concept “pops up” all around the country with innovative snack options, like chips made from crickets and astronaut ice cream that actually tastes good. Their hope is to expand your palate and introduce you to new foods while supporting smaller, newly-launched food brands.

Emily Schildt founded Pop Up Grocer after she was inspired by food halls in Europe and wanted to make the grocery store of her dreams a reality. Made up of whimsy and tasty stuff, Pop Up Grocer’s selection of brands can certainly make any foodie swoon. We talked with her about the importance of supporting emerging brands, how she is inspired by food, and what balance looks like in her ever-moving life.

Pop Up Grocer Founder, Emily Schildt, at one of their temporary locations.

What was the seed idea that grew into Pop Up Grocer? 

I'd been traveling in Europe and the UK a bunch, and was exposed to well-designed food halls within department stores like Selfridges and Le Bon Marche. Each visit sparked such creativity and excitement, not only because the environment was so aesthetically pleasing, but because the products were entirely new to me. And I thought, “Why isn't there a discovery destination like this, back home?” A few months later, Pop Up Grocer was born.

How do you decide on each new location? 

New York was a no brainer for us, as that's where we originated and where most of our team is based. From there, it's a push and pull of demand from our community—where people are begging for us to come, and where our brands are interested in raising more awareness. We saw a lot of success in Austin, a smaller city with a strong sense of community and less access to the brands we showcase. Moving forward, we're interested in visiting more cities like it, looking to Nashville, Denver, DC, Chicago, and Boston.

What do you hope that someone feels when they walk into Pop Up Grocer for the first time? 

Joy, happiness, pleasure. We intentionally design our spaces to be colorful, playful, and fun. Our team is super friendly and very passionate about the items we feature. I felt very excluded from the boutique grocery stores that were emerging, like their inventory was very precious and their staff, unapproachable. I wanted to create a space where everyone is welcome and where you feel invited to stay awhile. Nothing is more rewarding than watching people hang out on our couch, hold meetings at our communal table, and leave feeling that Christmas morning sort of excitement about the things they found.

“I wanted to create a space where everyone is welcome and where you feel invited to stay awhile.”

Why does supporting these smaller food brands matter? 

80-90% of new products fail. And that might be because a large percentage of them just aren't good, but it's mostly because it's really difficult to break through, to reach the people that matter. 

What we do is provide an accessible platform for these brands to bring their product to market, get in front of a valuable audience, and gain insight and feedback that can drive the business forward. Consumers want to support the smaller brands, but they have to have a place in which to identify them, first.

Brands from Pop Up Grocer, you can find at Neighborhood Goods.

How are you inspired by food? 

I live for food! I don't understand people who don't eat breakfast; I literally wouldn't get out of bed. Creativity manifests in food; a product is ultimately a representation of all of the research, emotion, and dedication that went into it. As a small business owner myself, I find motivation in that. And it's cyclical, because then in turn you can use these products to empower your own creativity, like the use cases for a hot sauce, vinegar, or cauliflower tortilla. Food is supportive of a ceaseless curiosity, which is the backbone to my lifestyle, really.

“Creativity manifests in food; a product is ultimately a representation of all of the research, emotion, and dedication that went into it.”

Where do you turn to get the creative juices flowing for a new installation? 

My team! Thank god I'm no longer a one-woman show; there's only so much juice you can squeeze from one lemon.

You can follow Emily at @emilyschildt on Instagram.

Running a business can be hard, there is never a shortage of obstacles. What is something that encourages you to keep going? 

Work is hard. What you have to figure out are what hardships you can accept and which you can't. 

For me, it’s the fact that I can live every day on more or less my own terms; [designing] my own life is paramount. And that encourages me to keep going every day, the gratitude I have for that freedom. Everything else is just trivial and thus manageable.

From savory sauces to roasted cashews, all of the goodies at Pop Up Grocer are available on Neighborhood Good’s website or IRL at our Chelsea Market location. Go check them out and try something new!

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