Plans for Box Row in Avondale gave us a hint that shipping containers might be Birmingham’s new retail incubators, and the announcement of Smallbox Co. has basically confirmed it. Want to know if your neighborhood will host cool new concepts? Look for the Smallbox.
The idea, a REV Birmingham newsletter reported, is that businesses trying to evaluate possible locations can use SmallBox’s retail-ready shipping containers to develop a temporary shop and see where it works. Birmingham’s Design Review Committee has approved SmallBox’s launch of a semi-permanent container in Railroad Park, according to REV.
The concept seems especially useful for places that don’t have a lot of accessible vacant space. REV-driven pop-ups have worked well in the Theatre District, for instance, but what if you’re considering a location like Five Points South or Railroad Park? Pop-ups there need different tactics, which is where Smallbox comes in.
Owner Eric Tasker knows he’s not the only shipping container game in town and says folks often confuse his business with Box Row. But Tasker’s plan is game-changingly nimble. His eventual goal is to “have 15, 20 locations and be able to offer that, rotate people around,” Tasker told us. “And to let them test where they need to be.”
Because start-ups can move the entire space to another location, there’s also more room for custom layout and branding than your average pop-up. Tasker — an architect by training — told us he’ll be working through the details of space design and build as part of each tenant contract.
What makes us giddy about the news, though, is the idea that neighborhoods throughout the city will be able to host emerging businesses. Local retailers will be able to find their ideal neighborhood in the same way that our clients and blog readers might: plenty of reading and research, then some quality time feeling a neighborhood out. And for our clients, future SmallBoxes offer one more search filter for a neighborhood’s transformative energy.