By Robbie Owens

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DALLAS (CBS11)Imagination, innovation and that ‘why-don’t-we’ entrepreneurial drive have turned empty office space in downtown Dallas into something special. It’s called ‘Unbranded’— a retail popup that’s back for an even bigger and better second year.

“Last year it was 1300 square feet,” says co-founder Matt Alexander, “this year, it’s 15,000!” Alexander and co-founder Bryan DeLuca have experienced their own success as entrepreneurs and felt there was no better time than the present to give back to a Dallas community that’s been so supportive.

“We just really have a heart for the creators in Dallas,” says DeLuca, “who are trying to be known.”

The popup at 1616 Commerce serves as an incentive to visitors to linger awhile (or even make a special trip) downtown—while also providing a tremendous opportunity for fledgling businesses.

Some 300 applications poured in to have a share of the space—roughly 45 were accepted.

“I applied thinking it was a complete shot in the dark,” says Bowen, co-owner of Hipster Baby. “And when we found out we got in, we were ecstatic.”

Bowen says her company was, quite literally, born of necessity when she was pregnant with her son. “I’d go to the local boutiques here in Dallas and they would say ‘oooohhh, you’re looking for boys: there’s a rack in the back’. And they’d have about this much product,” gesturing with her hands to indicate that it wasn’t very much. “I got really frustrated and decided it was something I had found a niche for.”

Bowen and her husband Daniel say they sell “cool” boys clothes. But, as a small online business couldn’t afford the opportunity to try out the retail space that Unbranded is giving them over the holidays for free.

“I think that’s probably key to the whole thing,” says DeLuca, “is that we’re providing a free space for these people to sell their stuff.” He also says that extra sales over the holidays aren’t the only benefit.

“What’s really invaluable is to have that in person interaction with the customers… ‘hey– what do you like about my stuff? What do you not like? What are they buying?’ to find out really invaluable data that you can walk away from– no matter what your sales are– to adjust and pivot your business.”

Downtown Dallas, Inc. chipped in to outfit the formerly empty space… seeing it as an investment not only in these small businesses, but for big D as well.

“So we’re real excited for this new concept,” says Shalissa Perry, Downtown Dallas, Inc. “It’s meant to bring people downtown all season long: rather than just one day. According to Perry, there will be lots of pleasant surprises awaiting visitors to downtown this holiday season. Along with ‘Unbranded,’ ‘Park-it Popups’ will bring established retailers into local public spaces, like Pegasus Plaza.

It’s all intended to encourage North Texans to take a fresh look at downtown Dallas. “If this is successful, there’s a chance that we might be able to do some of these popups throughout the year– and our goal is to make sure people are coming to downtown and not through downtown.”

At ‘Unbranded’, everything from vintage clothing, antiques, art, coffee and cocktails will be waiting. “Last year for example, we had photographers and artists who had never sold their goods before to another human,” says Alexander, “they suddenly went to selling thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff.”

This year, Mary Bowen wants to be one of them.

“It’s going to take our fledgling online business into something so much greater,” says Bowen, “because we’re getting to test out using physical space, retail space which would otherwise be too costly for us. I’m really, really excited.”

Unbranded operates Thursdays through Sundays, through December 20th. Operating hours on Thursdays are 11-9, Fridays and Saturday, 11-7 and Noon-5 on Sundays.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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