This post was written by Olivia Albright Brochu, Creative Tile’s brand manager and sales/design team member

Small businesses have been one of the greatest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. Just look around, and you’ll see shuttered restaurants and empty retail spaces. Nearly every business has felt a pang of fear (or several) since March 2020 when most of us were forced to shut down.

We felt those pangs here at Creative Tile as well, and it forced us to, well, get creative. It forced us to look around at our empty showroom, and remember why we opened it in the first place. It forced us to look outside our doors, at the community we loved to serve, and find new ways to connect with it.

Creative Tile hosts a pop-up shop with Jay’s Local.

Enter the pop-up shop.

We kicked things off in November 2020 by teaming up with Jay’s Local, a West Allentown neighborhood eatery, for a coffee and snacks pop up right in our main kitchen display. The Saturday event brought in customers for us, helped Jay’s gain exposure to some new clientele, and even garnered us both some media attention.

But more than that, teaming up with Jay’s Local gave us this rare opportunity to connect with another family-owned, Lehigh Valley-based business that under normal circumstances we would never have known. Coffee shops and tile shops don’t normally intermingle, except, of course, when the tile team needs to buy a latte.

Meeting Tracey, Lyell and the team at Jay’s Local showed us just how similar small businesses actually are. We all have a dream, a product we’re passionate about, and a care for the community that prompted us to set down roots here and open our doors to the public. It’s that connection that can help propel local businesses forward together. Turns out, we can  work together, even if our work isn’t in the same industry.

So we kept going, brainstorming more ways to support local makers and small businesses by giving them a chance to sell to our loyal customers.

In December 2020, we hosted a #shopsmall holiday event featuring several local businesses and makers, including FD Market, Emily Grace Hartman, Roozies, Love Mama Supply, and of course Jay’s Local.

Then in the spring, we put together a four-weekend pop-up series to kick off the warmer weather. For Keeps Flowers brought their handmade paper arrangements, Cottage & Bloom transformed our main kitchen display to show off their spring décor items, the Sticky Pig parked out front with delicious tacos and deviled eggs, and Steel City Plant Co. wowed us with their gorgeous plants – and knowledge about how to care for them.

With each event, new opportunities arose, for both us and our pop up teammates. We’ve seen Jay’s Local turn around and host FD Market. We’ve seen the start of a business relationship between Cottage & Bloom and For Keeps Flowers. We’ve seen growth on social media. We’ve seen Saturdays busier than usual, thanks to the exciting offerings.

This concept of community-minded business continues to inspire and motivate us.

I am writing this post from my office, while overlooking the first pop-up shop for a new Lehigh Valley non-profit, Olive & Grace Boutique. Next to our glass mosaics and porcelain displays, racks of donated clothing and hygienic items are lined up. Young women in need will be welcome to “shop” all afternoon, on a day Creative Tile’s doors are normally closed.

Where will our focus on the community take us next? It’s hard to say. But I do know for sure, if you’re looking for a way to grow your small business, host a pop-up shop. Just trust me on this one.