For the last few years, there have been many terrific pop-up restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops, even coffee stalls and taquerias around town. But what about markets? Yes, there are farmers markets, but these are hardly small or mobile.
That's why Adam Romney and Elizabeth Bowman formed their POP Produce earlier this year, a little stand that pops up -- folds out, really -- with local produce and home-style products. It's a very small stand, which is why Romney and Bowman can take it places, most recently on Thursdays to Grand Central Market, and starting Saturday, to an art studio in Highland Park (the collaborative pop-up store is called Arroyo General), where they'll be popping up with Morning Glory Confections and Knotwork LA on Thursdays through Saturdays until Christmas.
POP Produce isn't a substitute for your local farmers market, or for a day of shopping -- it's rather a highly curated shopping stop if you don't have time to spend hours sourcing all the things you'd like to get, or if you simply don't have time to make it to one of L.A.'s great markets. This is not only fresh produce, but flowers, snacks and pantry items.
On the pretty pale wood shelves of the stall, you'll find Weiser Farm's watermelon radishes and carrots; Flora Bella Farm's kale and Swiss chard; apples from See Canyon; fresh quail and chicken eggs from the CityFarm in Glassell Park; smoked peppers from Windrose Farms; bags of terrific granola from Granola Mama's Handmade; tangerines and pomegranates from Mud Creek Ranch; and handmade soaps from Pine Street Products in Altadena, created by a woman who was once a chemist for NASA.
That is what you might find this weekend, but maybe not next week, since Bowman and Romney change what they get from farmers according to the seasons, the vicissitudes of weather and availability.
Bowman and Romney first met at the Altadena Farmers Market, where Bowman was working as the urban farm liaison while getting her master's in Urban Sustainability from Antioch University. Romney, a former finance guy who comes from a Santa Paula agricultural family, was volunteering. Joseph Shuldiner, who helped found the farmers market, was also thinking about new vendors for downtown's Grand Central Market, which he's been helping to curate, and ran the idea past the two. Though Bowman initially thought the idea was crazy, she also couldn't stop thinking about it.
Two years later, Bowman and Romney are debuting their third pop-up -- they did one over the summer next door to Sqirl -- and are working toward a brick-and-mortar business.
"I'm a terrible gardener," Bowman said one recent Thursday in Grand Central Market. "I think of myself as a community organizer for farmers."
She says that she and Romney keep the focus on small-scale farmers and local producers and backyard farmers. To fill in the blanks and offer a wider variety, they bring in produce from small to medium family farms, including some larger and more recognizable farmers who people will know from area markets. It's also a process of trial and error, Bowman readily admits.
"My grandfather used to shop at Grand Central Market," she says about why they chose the bustling downtown market. "It's such a part of L.A.'s legacy."
You could say the same thing about farm stands.