Yukon News

Pop-up shop jumpstarts entrepreneurs

Roxanne Stasyszyn Friday December 2, 2011

Ian Stewart/Yukon News

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Modern Burl is Whitehorse's first pop-up shop, located at the Green Party headquarters building on Fifth Ave. and Wood Street until Christmas.

The Green Party headquarters have been taken over.

The little shed on the corner of Wood Street and Fifth Avenue, which acts as the territory’s federal green party hub, is now home to Whitehorse’s newest pop-up store.

The Modern Burl opened a couple weekends ago, and it will close a few weekends from now. That will give its owners, and customers, a chance to try it out.

“All of us, in various ways, have toyed with the idea of a store like this, or a venture like this,” said Jen Williams, one of the store’s three owners. “But the idea of doing something full time, finding the space, quitting your job and taking it on without having the experience seemed a little daunting.

“We’d heard of the pop-up shop concept, I’d seen them in action in other cities and thought they were kind of cool. And we thought, ‘Yeah, that could be the thing to do.’”

Despite the impermanence of the store itself, the Modern Burl has been in the works for a while.

In mid-July, Williams sent that “first crazy note,” and things really started to materialize.

And for each owner, the idea has had years of back-of-mind planning.

“For myself, I have all these ideas of things I want to make and things I want to do and it was just time to do them,” said Chera Hunchuk. “Stop thinking about them and start doing them.”

For Polly Madsen, who completes the Modern Burl triangle, it was the time spent at home during her maternity leave that gave her space to start planning for the store.

Ian Stewart/Yukon News

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Co-owner Jen Williams arranges a display at Modern Burl, Whitehorse's first pop-up shop, located at the Green Party building on Fifth Ave. and Wood Street until December 17.

Madsen is an instructor at Yukon College.

Williams works for the territorial government and Hunchuk is a graphic designer, whose most recent piece is the store’s logo.

Both Williams and Hunchuk have some of their own art for sale in the store, including photography, cards, ceramics, homemade candles and an interesting ‘ode’ to Riverside Groceries, while Madsen’s husband, Paul Gort. He is behind most of the beautiful and unique woodwork in the store, including cutting boards, candle holders and a beautiful log table, which is almost invisible underneath all of the goods on display, but is still for sale.

All the other products in the small shed have that homemade, handmade, eclectic, folksy feel. And while there are a few other Yukon creations, much of it comes from around the world, including jewelry from Greece, silk screening from Kentucky and “mobile home mobiles,” featuring trailers, teepees and igloos, from Los Angeles.

“I think we started with just favourites,” said Williams. “Whether it was favourite design items, or favourite designers that we’d run across. And then, in the end, when we started pulling things together it was the more handcrafted, studio-made items that seemed to call us and come together. And we were thinking of items we knew people wouldn’t find locally.

“We wanted to be something…”

“Fresh,” Hunchuk said, finishing Williams’ thought.

And there are many items in the small, wood stove-warmed shed that many people may never have seen before, including hand-printed pillow cases and handmade coffee cup cozies. There are also uniquely designed sweaters for men and women, cards, wallets, dishes, knitwear and lots of great artwork and photography.

And despite the small space, there is even a kids’ section in one corner, with one-of-a-kind dolls, books featuring numerous Canadian authors and illustrators and children’s clothing.

Since the ladies opened the Modern Burl’s shed door a few weekends ago, it’s been busy, they said.

“It’s been really steady and there’s been lots of positive feedback from people,” said Madsen.

“A lot of people saying thanks,” said Williams. “Thanks for bringing something like this. It’s fun.”

But in the immediate future, at least, the Modern Burl store is still set to ‘pop-down.’

“I think we’re just focused right now in the short-term,” said Madsen. “And then we’ll see.”

But the Modern Burl collective, which began as a cooky, cocktail party conversation years ago and consists of the three ladies, their husbands and children respectively, will live on, they said.

The store, on the other hand, will close its doors on December 17.

Until then, it will be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from noon to 2 p.m., respectively.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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