Emily Dunn is a native Memphian who returned to Bluff City just last year after spending time in Austin, TX. It was during her five years there that she honed her makers’ market skills while pursuing her own artistic endeavors. When she returned to Memphis to be closer to family, Emily wanted to continue her market work here, so she launched Memphis Modern Market, a series of pop-up markets held at various locations throughout town. Memphis, she discovered, has a lot of younger, more modern makers than people realize, so her new pop-up markets, which launched in August 2019, allowed the artists a space to showcase their work and earn a living.
As with so many things this year, COVID hit, and Emily’s business model had to adapt. She began hosting virtual markets each month via Instagram. She was then approached by the Pink Palace to launch the Pink Palace Crafts Fair Pop-Up Shop two months ago. This coming Thursday, she’s launching yet another pop-up shop downtown in partnership with the Downtown Memphis Commission’s “Open on Main” initiative. Find out more about these unique shopping opportunities and the woman behind them. Welcome Emily Dunn as our newest FACE of Memphis.
You successfully launched the Pink Palace pop-up in September, and now you’re preparing to launch another downtown later this week. How did the downtown pop-up come about?
After I had the museum pop-up up and running, I reached out to the Downtown Memphis Commission. They have an initiative called Open on Main, and I looked on their website and saw they didn’t have anything active this year because of COVID. They normally have a few spaces they’re trying to activate, so I reached out to them. They reached out to different property owners who have empty retail fronts, and that’s how we got this space. Because I had the Pink Palace shop up and running, I could say, “This is what I want to do downtown.”
Who are some of the makers you’re excited to have in the pop-up?
I work a lot with IV by David. He’s a local Memphis artist and an all-around wonderful person. He’s an interior designer and teaches Zumba and has a big healthy living following and is just an amazing artist. I always enjoy working with him.
We’re going to have The Crybaby Club, too. I haven’t worked with them before, but I’m really excited to. It’s a healthy emotions brand, focused on saying that emotions are okay. They have a lot of prints and t-shirts and stuff that has the theme that even if you cry, you can still be a boss. I’m really excited to bring them on board because they have a really great message.
Booth Sartain, too. She is an all-around talented artist. She does woven rainbow wall hangings. She also makes really cool doormats that say “Home Sweet Memphis” and jewelry. She’s really great!
In general, we’re going to have a wider range than we have at the museum shop. [The Pink Palace is] sticking more to crafts as much as they can. The downtown shop is going to have some vintage and also a Nashville brand called The Rug Shop — she has some beautiful vintage rugs that I have been dying to bring to people here.
What sort of artistic mediums can people find at the pop-ups?
I try to have a wide range of things people would expect to find at a typical gift shop. Jewelry, candles, some smaller prints and gift cards. But also a bit more formal art — some paintings, wall hangings, home decor, the vintage, the rugs … the only thing I’m not selling is plants!
What sort of safety precautions are in place for shoppers?
We have signage up that says masks are required, and we’re following social distancing protocol. A few of the artists will be helping me man the shop. We’ll be making sure people are being respectful of each others’ space. If it gets full, we will ask people to wait outside, but it’s a pretty big space — a little over 1,000 square feet — so it should safely allow for a decent amount of traffic.
Can people complete their holiday shopping at these pop-up shops?
That’s definitely the goal. I think in general, I want to have something for everybody. So far, the Pink Palace shop has been a great place for people to have a one-stop-shop for their holiday shopping.
What has the response been from the local artist and craftspeople community for having this opportunity?
In general, people are pretty excited to have a place to sell their things. A lot of artists have done a good job of pivoting to online sales, and people have been really supportive in the Memphis community — buying from websites or Instagram. But a lot of artists have a decent amount of stock that they had been getting ready for the market season, which typically starts in the spring. So they’re excited to have a place to sell their things without having to put themselves at risk.
You’re also hosting a virtual market on November 21. Tell us about that.
We typically have around 15 vendors for the virtual markets. Most are based in Memphis, but I have had some of my artist friends in Austin do them. We have some Nashville, North Carolina and [Washington,] D.C. vendors — so we have broadened the impact by having those markets to spread everyone’s reach. The Memphis Modern Market Instagram serves as a hub, and I just want people to feel like even though they’re sitting at home, I want them to have a mimosa and feel like they’re walking from tent to tent. We post each vendor and tag them in the Market Instagram Stories, so as a shopper, you can look there, see the tag, and go look at what each vendor is having in their sales on their Instagram Stories.
Long-term, what is your goal for Memphis Modern Market?
It’s my hope to grow the market as a resource for artists in Memphis and beyond. It can be hard to know where to start as an artist selling your work and what is worth investing time and money in. So I’d like to have resources such as market materials available for rent, like tents, tables, and displays so that artists looking to try market vending can try it without a huge investment upfront. I’d also like to have resources available to help vendors with the business side of things, like classes on wholesale pricing and what to expect when working with companies who want to sell their work.
That’s fantastic! OK, what’s the best advice you have ever received or have to give?
If people don’t understand what you’re trying to do or want to tell you no, find another path to keep doing what you want to do. People will eventually understand what you want to make happen.
Last question: Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
My dog — I have a large chihuahua named Scooter.
And some form of exercise. I used to be a runner, and it was the only way I could calm my nerves or not feel insane. I had to give it up recently, so I took up roller skating.
Thank you, Emily. The Pink Palace Crafts Fair Pop-Up Shop runs Friday – Sunday through December 20, 2020. The downtown pop-up opens November 12, 2020, at 55 S. Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103. And the virtual pop-up takes place on November 21 via the Memphis Modern Market Instagram page. Learn more about all three HERE.