Dover art studio gets new lease on life

 

DOVER — On Wednesday afternoon, local leaders gathered to celebrate the re-opening of a downtown art studio, Artsy Fartsy, on Loockerman Street.

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Delaware Economic Development Office State Coordinator Diane Laird, left, and Artsy Fartsy owner Serena Stachecki during Wednesday afternoon official grand opening. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

It wasn’t any usual opening though, because Artsy Fartsy is one of four Delaware businesses chosen this year to be part of Project Pop Up — an initiative headed by the Delaware Office of Economic Development to help small businesses flourish.

“We seek to provide innovative opportunities to entrepreneurs and also address vacancy concerns in the state’s downtown business districts and this initiative successfully addresses both,” said Diane Laird, state coordinator of Downtown Delaware.

Project Pop Up started four years ago and has selected a total of 18 businesses to participate.

Small businesses are encouraged to apply mid-summer and DEDO goes on to select those best qualified to succeed in the program.

“We are particularly interested in those businesses that are already generating revenue, have at least a small but consistent customer base and use Internet sales and marketing,” Ms. Laird said. “In other words, we look for serious business owners that are trying to establish themselves in a downtown brick and mortar location and show good signs of readiness.”

Artsy Fartsy previously was located in a different space on Loockerman but since its initial opening has held art classes from kids as young as 3 up to adults in their 80s.

“I was a little nervous to expand and go bigger but I had a lot of support,” said Serena Pelletier-Stachecki, owner of Artsy Fartsy.

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Artsy Fartsy owner Serena Stachecki does a television interview inside her Loockerman Street business Wednesday during her grand opening. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

Each Pop Up business opens in a previously vacant space where they are given three months rent-free. The space is offered for free by the landlord; DEDO nor the tax payers cover any expense.

“In some of our Pop Ups, we get to see lights turn on in a space that’s been dark for many years, but luckily this time, that wasn’t the case,” Ms. Laird said.

Artsy Fartsy re-opened up in the space on Loockerman formerly occupied by Young’s Studio which closed last year after more than 60 years in business.

“The only thing you can be sure of in life is change,” Mayor Robin Christiansen said at the re-opening. “With great sadness we saw Young’s Studio move along and leave, but Artsy Fartsy transitioned here because the business was able to grow in downtown Dover.”

Of the 18 businesses chosen for Project Pop Up over the past four years, 17 have signed on for a longterm lease. DEDO specifically looks for businesses that have a long-range plan.

“Of the 17 that signed longterm leases, all 17 are still in business. Thirteen are in their original Pop Up location. One business expanded to a larger location. Two Pop Up businesses have each birthed a new small business,” Ms. Laird said.

In addition to the three months free of rent, DEDO provides each Pop Up business owner with a business adviser. In Artsy Fartsy’s case, the business adviser is Ken Anderson, DEDO’s director for entrepreneurial and small business support.

“Every once in a while we get a business who actually does more for the project than we do for the business and this is one of those businesses,” Mr. Anderson said. “She had a lot of passion about this business, understood her customers and really educated us about her vision.”

Artsy Fartsy was the only business in Dover chosen for Project Pop Up this year. The other three were in Delaware City, Laurel and Milford.

More information about Project Pop Up can be found at inde.delaware.gov/popup.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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