A temporary eatery and pop-up shops are set to open this winter as part of the expanding Downtown in December festivities at the Myriad Gardens.
The shops and restaurant will be set up in a 6,000-square-foot restaurant built, but never opened, as part of the $34 million makeover of the gardens completed in 2011.
Maureen Heffernan, executive director of the gardens, said the eatery and shops will open onto an ice rink that last year drew 30,000 people and is being expanded by 20 percent.
“Our No. 2 question asked when people come to the gardens is ‘Where is the gift shop?'” Heffernan said. (The No. 1 question is about restroom locations.)
The pop-up shops idea was being contemplated for months by local retail consultant Allison Bailey, who helped coordinate the first experiment with temporary storefronts as part of the Better Block OKC festival staged at NW 8 and Hudson last spring.
A pop-up retail space is a venue that is temporary — a trend gaining momentum nationwide that involves a shop “popping-up” one day, then disappearing days or weeks later.
Bailey said she discovered with Better Block the more personal connection a person can make with a retailer through such event-driven shopping.
“Oui was one of the shops,” Bailey said. “I bought a pair of earrings from her. Every time I wear them, I think of this fleeting, dreamy shop I visited that was there, and is no longer there. It's kind of whimsical …”
The shops will share space in the empty restaurant with a temporary eatery to be run by Caliber Bistro, which also operates a cafe at Full Circle Bookstore at 50 Penn Place. The eatery and shops will open Black Friday, Nov. 24.
The $2.9 million restaurant, built with glass windows imported from Italy, was designed for “white linen table” fine dining, even though several local downtown area restaurant operators advised that such a concept would not work at the gardens location. City officials responded they were confident the concept would work, and built the restaurant without an operator.
The city and the Myriad Gardens Foundation have been unable to find an operator for the restaurant. The one bid submitted by the Deep Fork Restaurant Group proposed a burger and shake eatery and was rejected.
Heffernan, hired as foundation director after the restaurant was built, hopes the temporary eatery might show how a permanent restaurant can succeed at the gardens.
“We asked a number of local places, but they were all too busy to open a holiday cafe. But we found Caliber, and we're all very excited about it,” she said.
The eatery will have a rotating menu with soups, salads, deserts, hot chocolate, coffee and cider, she said. “It will be very family friendly — they'll sometimes be making mac and grilled cheese sandwiches, black angus hot dogs, chicken salads and wraps,” Heffernan said.
The eatery is set to stay open through the end of the Devon Ice Rink season in late January. Heffernan suggested the eatery might remain longer if it is popular with visitors.
In the meantime, Heffernan said the restaurant has been rented out for banquets, weddings and special events. Nonprofit groups have been allowed to use the space for discounted rates, and sometimes for free.
“We're still looking for a permanent operator,” Heffernan said. “We have leads we are pursuing. Caliber won't be the ultimate operator. But this will be a very interesting way to test the water.”
If you go
Myriad Botanical Gardens
Pop-up shop schedule:
Nov. 29 to Dec. 7:
Dec. 11 to 15:
Dec. 17 to 24:
Devon Ice Rink schedule:
The rink opens Nov. 23. The schedule will be Mondays and Tuesdays, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. through 8 p.m.