“Pop-ups,” once an unfamiliar concept in San Antonians, are becoming more and more commonplace in the city. Bands, restaurants, artists, shops and startups have begun organizing pop-ups to gain more exposure while building relationships with consumers, one another, and like-minded people. Mixing business and pleasure, pop-ups showcase music, arts, food, fashion, and sometimes, all of the above.
Some pop-ups have become semi-permanent institutions such as the Joyarte jewelry shop on Houston Street and Tim the Girl’s Special Project Socials pop-up dinners. Some have even found lasting, brick-and-mortar homes, such as the newly opened, wildly popular Hot Joy at 1014 South Alamo St., which previously “popped up” two nights a week inside The Monterey. Pop-ups tend to take place in vacant or unorthodox places: empty shops, unused buildings, or in outdoor spaces such as parks, parking lots, alongside railroad tracks, and even under temporary structures.
One night-only venues expose guests to new people and new experiences, create network opportunities, and accelerate redevelopment of underused areas and structures. They also stimulate neighboring businesses.
The Richter Co. on lower Broadway is capitalizing on the pop-up trend by organizing and hosting events in their store, a former light industrial shop, on a continuing basis. Richter events are not just fun social occasions, but also serve as an opportunity to create brand awareness and allow businesses and customers to mingle and connect.
The front room of The Richter Co. is both an unconventional and popular space. Founder and owner Mario Guajardo has been hosting pop-ups, mixers, and get-togethers at the shirt manufacturing facility since it opened in 2012, transforming the front end into a sort of speak-easy/living room/anything-goes parlor.
First-time guests at these intimate parties are often surprised when first walking through the Richter entrance. The parlor is warm and inviting, contemporary and curated. And while this may seem an unlikely locale for event hosting, Guajardo says that the space was always intended and designed to do double duty as a place for social gatherings.
“I wanted to connect what I was doing (made-in-USA clothing design and manufacture) with lifestyle,” Guajardo said. “ It’s about integration. More than just buying a product, it’s partly about connecting our consumers with a social conscience.”
Guajardo learned the value of such an endeavor while working for big-name clothing companies and premium brands for over a decade.
“When I worked for Lacoste, I learned how a brand is not just a brand,” he said. “It’s a story. It’s a commitment. It’s a lifestyle.”
Guajardo gained an appreciation for clothing and fashion from a young age, he said. “My dad is a lawyer, and I grew up watching him get ready for work in the mornings. Being so well-groomed and well-dressed was really important. That really romanticized it for me.”
With a background in business and his experience in the industry, the clothing company owner drew inspiration from French bourgeois bohemian lifestyle and worked with friends Freddie McQueen, formerly a senior designer at Ralph Lauren, and Karim Latrous, branding specialist, to come up with a concept for Richter. Guajardo eventually renovated the old building off Broadway near the downtown area, which originally was a 1930s-era clothing manufacturer. While the concept behind Guajardo’s clothing line evolved into a casual, feel-good brand with the goal of becoming the premium made-in-America T-shirt company in Texas, the bohemian design influence manifested in the store’s parlor.
The philosophy behind Guajardo’s pop-ups and event space is the same philosophy behind his business model.
“We have this belief that high quality has to come from some other place,” he said.
That’s why we often think “high quality” when we hear “imported” – an outdated notion. Guajardo’s desire is to build mutually beneficial connections.
“When I was in L.A., I saw how new businesses and companies that moved into downtown L.A. impacted the economy and the landscape of the downtown area,” he said. He knew he wanted to be a part of bringing the same sort of revitalization to downtown San Antonio, keeping in line with an overarching bohemian philosophy: connecting what you do with community and local economy.
It’s because of this philosophy that Richter has already made T-shirts for many like-minded businesses in town, such as Tuk Tuk Taproom, Friendly Spot, and (full disclosure) the Rivard Report. It’s why Guajardo is currently working on a made-in-Texas T-shirt line for the University of Texas. At the same time, Richter is contracting with designers from abroad (Iran, Italy, France, Korea) to help design a new line of locally-made T-shirts to sell in the store.
From the manufacture of its clothing to the gatherings they host, The Richter Co. sets the bar for upholding a philosophy – not just a business, but also a lifestyle. The clothing company intends to hold more pop-ups, mixers, weekly taco nights, yoga classes and other gatherings.
Last weekend, The Richter hosted their Fin de siècle, a Moulin Rouge inspired soiree. Libations and bartenders provided by the Blue Box (see top photo).
“This event was a small, end-of-era, French renaissance-inspired event. For artists and others we work closely with in the community, I really think that theme connects with what happens in this city. Every other week there’s an article about SA being recognized for small business, or for our food, or what have you. There are a lot of like-minded people here and San Antonio is ripe and changing rapidly – it’s really an urban renaissance,” Guajardo said.
To join in the Fiesta game, The Richter Co. will be hosting a mixer April 26 during the Fiesta Flambeau Parade, which runs up and down Broadway directly in front of the clothing company facility.
*Featured/top image: Fin de siècle at The Richter Co. Saturday, April 12, 2014. Photo by Shirley Parodi.