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Rent-free temporary storefronts offered in downtown Duluth

Downtown Duluth will have holiday pop-up stores again this year.

The Greater Downtown Council on Monday announced the program is back for a third year to fill vacant downtown storefronts.

So far, seven spaces — five on West Superior and West First streets and two on the Holiday Center's Skywalk level — have been offered up by property owners rent-free for two to three months.

That's fewer than the 13 temporary sites offered in 2013 when empty storefronts dotted Superior downtown Superior Street and spurred the program's start. But it's more than last year's four sites when fewer spaces were vacant.

"This is just one of those times when we have a few additional spaces to offer entrepreneurs in the hopes of getting tenants," said Kristi Stokes, downtown council president.

The program gives new retailers a chance to test the market and gives existing retailers a way to try a downtown location. The goal is for them to do well enough to establish permanent stores downtown.

Two did last year: Studio 15 and Lester River Trading Co. continue to operate on North Third Avenue West.

As in previous years, the chosen retailers will be given free rent for two to three months but must pay for their own utility costs.

The available spaces are:

• 408 W. Superior St., 1,698 square feet, formerly Occasions

• 207 W. Superior St., 6,446 square feet, formerly Explorations toys

• 207 W. Superior St., 300 square feet on the skywalk

• 207 W. Superior St., 700 square feet on the skywalk

• 5 W. Superior St., 2,000 square feet, formerly Great Lakes Gifts & Gallery

• 136 W. First St., 416 square feet, formerly Plaid Pantry

• 130 W. First St., 946 square feet, formerly Belanger's

The temporary stores must be up and running by Nov. 28 — Small Business Saturday — and remain open until at least Jan. 9.

UMD Stores has had pop-up stores downtown the past two years, first at 5 W. Superior St., and last year at the former Explorations space on the street level of the Holiday Center.

The first year was hampered by the small space, tough winter weather and street-only access, said Jeff Romano, director of UMD Stores. But last year's location in the Holiday Center was three times bigger with expansive storefront windows and was accessible from within the mall.

"We felt really good about that location for that period of time," Romano said. "We did very well there. Overall, we feel that it was a very positive thing."

Would UMD go after that spot again?

"We'd consider doing that again," he said earlier this month before he knew it was available. "We were very happy with what we did last year."

Applicants should call the Greater Downtown Council at 218-727-8549 or email Stokes at kstokes@downtownduluth.com. They should provide a brief letter, explaining their interest in the project, their relevant experience and their ability to be set up with merchandise ready to go by the Nov. 28 start date.

A panel of judges will conduct the final selection process later this month.