The Open Holiday Market opens for weekend shoppers and gifts for a variety of loved ones.
The OPEN Holiday Market gives 14 local vendors an opportunity to market their wares this weekend and next at 231 E. Houston St. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

An unoccupied space at Houston and Navarro streets has high ceilings and bare walls with peeling paint, but for two December weekends, the 14 local businesses that set up pop-up shops there have turned it into a hybrid of Anthropologie and a craft fair.

The sixth annual OPEN Holiday Market opened Friday evening at 231 E. Houston St. The space was planned as a restaurant concept, Cody Shown said, but she asked owner GrayStreet Partners if the City could use the vacant property as a venue for the pop-up shops.

Shown is a senior management analyst with the City’s Center City Development and Operations Department. She has been working with property owners and local businesses to set up pop-up shops in empty spaces around San Antonio since she started working for the city in 2015. 

Eun Hwa Jung started her clothing brand, Jowa, six months ago. Jung says “Jowa” means “it’s good” or “I like it” in Korean. Credit: Jackie Wang / San Antonio Report

“We went to La Villita and said, ‘What if [property owners] give them 90 days for free after they submit extended proposals?’ Three years later, all of those spaces are full,” Shown said. “A quarter of the current tenants at La Villita went through the pop-up stores” process. 

Shown sifted through 70 applications for this year’s holiday pop-up shop market, settling on 14 local vendors who sell clothing, jewelry, art, skin care products, and more. All but one of the businesses are owned by women, and the youngest vendor – Tamara Thomas, who owns Honeydipped Cosmetics – is 21 years old.

Heather Armstrong said she participated in last year’s OPEN Holiday Market and it helped launch her cowhide handbag brand, Lulo Texas. San Antonio’s pop-up shops  aren’t quite the same as pop-ups in other places, she said.

“I went to New York and they had an event like this in Chelsea, but it’s so expensive for vendors to take part in it,” Armstrong said. “This is free for us. When you’re launching, you couldn’t have a better circumstance.”

Armstrong’s cowhide goods are all handmade by her business partner, 70-year-old Aida Palacios, who lives in Bogotá, Colombia. Palacios and Armstrong met while Armstrong worked at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia and have been working together for two years on the business.

Eun Hwa Jung also imports her goods from abroad. The South Korean immigrant moved to San Antonio two years ago and started a clothing company six months ago. She said she wanted to bring a clean, classic look to the local fashion market and selects her items from South Korean designers.

“I was just wearing this style in Korea, but it was really hard to find in San Antonio, other than big commercial brands,” she said. 

Jung named her clothing brand Jowa because it means “it’s good” or “I like it” in Korean — a simple but positive word matching the simple style of her brand, she said.

“People who want good quality, timeless fashion, those are my customers,” she said. “They love it.”

Maria Galván has already established her brand, Lucio Tailoring Co., which makes many of the leather aprons that bartenders and chefs around town wear. She started making leather earrings a year ago, branded them as Lirica, and brought them to OPEN Holiday Market. She decided to show her goods at the market as a way to meet other vendors.

“I want to be more involved in the San Antonio market,” Galván said. “I travel a lot. When I’m in San Antonio, it’s my quiet time, so I never really socialize. I want to be more involved with the San Antonio community and thought this was a good way.”

Though this is her first time showing at the OPEN Holiday Market, she followed her golden rule of pop-up shops: buying from other vendors.

“I splurged as soon as I got here,” she laughed. “I got a dress, necklaces … and two macrame chandeliers for my house.”

OPEN Holiday Market will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. The pop-ups also will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15 and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 16.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.