Local entrepreneurs Luke Gutelius & Sean Dew bring pop-up marketing to Nantucket.
Where on Nantucket can you see a runway show, participate in a community discussion, and then completely overhaul your wardrobe? This summer, the co-founders of Town Pool, Luke Gutelius and Sean Dew, opened a unique retail space in the former digs of the Nantucket Ship Chandlery at the head of Old South Wharf that’s totally reinvented the idea of a pop-up shop. The space is unlike anything on the island, complete with a performance stage, a lounge, and a fake storefront outfitted to look like an old captain’s quarters. When entering, the far wall automatically slides away and reveals a sprawling 2,500-foot retail space packed to the rafters with high-end merchandise, from beachwear and leather goods to jewelry and luggage. The most innovative aspect of the retail space, however, is that 99 percent of this inventory does not belong to Town Pool. Instead, more than nine different companies have rented out sections of the Town Pool space, resulting in a one-stop-shop that’s curated around island living.
The Town Pool boys kicked things off Fourth of July weekend with a packed house for their first round table discussion held on a small performance stage in the store. On stage to discuss sports, politics and Nantucket were ESPN analyst Field Yates, NBC’s Luke Russert, and assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons Scott Piloi, all of whom are longtime summer residents. It was the first of several events Luke and Sean have in store for this summer season that make Town Pool much more than another retailer on the island.
From a business standpoint, the space is a win-win for both Town Pool and the retailers popping up shop in the revamped Chandlery. Before the doors even opened in July, Town Pool had its costs covered through the deals they had brokered with the businesses moving in. In return, these businesses are able to access prime foot traffic on Nantucket without having to go through the risky rigmarole of renting a storefront on the island. These businesses also benefit from having Town Pool plug their brands through their robust social media reach, which is the largest this side of Nantucket Sound.
“It’s genius,” Luke says emphatically. “It’s genius, but it was a complete accident. We can’t take any credit for it.” The idea for this pop-up space sprouted last summer when an off-island clothing company approached Luke and Sean to open a retail space for them on the island. After the Town Pool duo signed the lease and fronted the hefty sum to rent the property, the company backed out, leaving Sean and Luke holding the bag. And that’s when luck struck.
“We started getting approached by other brands who wanted to rent out the space from us,” Luke describes. Fledgling fashion labels like Boston-based shoemaker Artemis Designs started holding pop-up shops in the space and experienced unprecedented success. “I had a unique opportunity to chat with all of my customers who came in,” says Milicent Armstrong, the owner of Artemis Designs. “One of the ladies happened to be a writer for the Wall Street Journal and she did a piece on Artemis. All of my inventory sold out in three hours, and I basically had an empty shop by the end of summer, which was an incredible feeling.”
Success stories like Armstrong’s led Luke and Sean to open another Town Pool pop-up shop in Boston’s Faneuil Hall over the winter, where they received significant press coverage and were able to refine the concept that they brought back to Nantucket this summer. “I love bringing different brands and people together,” Luke says. “I use the word ‘space’ to describe what we do, rather than store, because it’s a space for people to come and experience things. I want people to leave here and remember that it was a happy place…buying something is secondary.”