NewsLocal NewsGoing 360


Going 360: Pop-up events help Kansas City businesses thrive

Posted: 10:18 AM, May 26, 2023
Updated: 2023-05-26 19:40:50-04
Pop-up events Slow Rise Donuts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pop-up events are growing in popularity all across the Kansas City area.

In one instance, a long line snaked through Servaes Brewery and out the door, but the crowd hadn't gathered at the Shawnee brewery just for beer. They were ready to support Slow Rise, which was popped up inside.

At such pop-up events, it's normal to find one or more vendors set up inside another business to sell their food or handmade items.

KSHB 41 is taking this topic 360, providing different perspectives on the impact of pop-up businesses.

In this story, you'll hear from:

  • Customers
  • Pop-up organizers
  • Pop-up hosts
  • Pop-up vendors

Customers shop local through pop-ups

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Pop-ups are only possible with customers.

"We like shopping local, and it's always unique stuff that you get. It's not just like everyday stores," customers said. "It has more meaning."

Shoppers like knowing exactly who their purchase supports.

"I'm willing to pay a little more, because I know I'm helping somebody," one customer said.

Some even wait hours for pop-ups, especially when it comes to Slow Rise doughnuts.

"What's the longest you've waited in line for these doughnuts?" KSHB 41 asked.

"I think maybe two hours," customer Brett Davis said.

Slow Rise sees high demand

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It began with a sourdough starter. From there, husband and wife team Jeff and Jessica Dunkel turned Slow Rise into a pop-up business.

"I don't think she believed me when I said how good they were, " Jeff Dunkel said.

All that goodness takes time to create.

Each week, the couple starts making dough Wednesday. Then, they let it ferment.

"It's just an everyday process," Jessica Dunkel said. "On Thursday, that's when we roll — we just roll all night."

From there, they give the dough more time to rise before putting it in the proofer Friday.

"It's a very finicky process — one degree here, one degree there really can just ruin a batch," Jeff Dunkel said.

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The process takes about 12 hours because the Dunkels use wild yeast.

"And then Saturday, we get up around midnight, 1 a.m. to start frying," she said.

All their hard work is met with major demand, but the face-to-face moments with customers make their efforts worth it.

"I think that's the most fun part of this whole thing — to meet the customers, to be able to hand out doughnuts ourselves," Jessica Dunkel said.

How pop-ups began in Kansas City

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While pop-ups are growing in popularity, these events aren't new.

Katie Mabry van Dieren is the owner and curator of The Strawberry Swing. In 2011, she teamed up with a friend to start the venture.

"I would call us the O.G. pop-up," she said. "We wanted to have a local pop-up here. We didn’t have any."

The Strawberry Swing gathers makers, finds a location and hosts pop-up events all across the community.

"People just starting out, it would be a lot for them to sign a lease, pay rent every month and take that risk, so a pop-up takes that risk away," Mabry van Dieren said.

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One place Kansas Citians may find a Strawberry Swing pop-up event is Zona Rosa. Everything from jewelry made with natural items to hand-painted creations are put on display.

Sarah Charlton, owner of Corvus Curiosities, participates in the pop-ups. She said all her items are made with real flowers, mushrooms and bones.

"I love collecting things," Charlton said. "I love nature. I just think there's so much beauty in it."

Hallie Marcase of AHalOfAGirl is a frequent face at Strawberry Swing events, too.

"I hand paint basically anything I get my hands on," Marcase said. "I do wooden signs and ring dishes and earrings."

Businesses host pop-up vendors

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Fetch, a vintage store and gift shop, hosts pop-up events in the West Bottoms.

Ashley Leutz, who owns MiddlestWest, sells her embroidered clothing at Fetch's events.

"I think it's fun for customers to kind of get unique items locally made and get to know the makers as well," she said.

Abbey Kobylinski sells hand-dyed and bleached sweatshirts and shirts through her business Bleach Bae.

"We're all on the same team; we're all cheering for each other," Kobylinski said. "If you've never been to a pop-up in Kansas City, I highly recommend coming to any of them."

Patrick Froman and Stephanie Miller, owners of Fetch, work to give back to the community.

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One way they do so is through pop-up events.

"We saw a need where we could put people outside, out on our dock or have people popped up inside," Miller said.

Inside the store, customers can find items made by small makers and vendors from across the country. Local vendors are also featured in the shop, like Effing Candle Co.

"It gives the customer a forward-facing look at the artists themselves," Froman said. "So, it kind of gives that customer like, 'Oh, wow, this is who made this.'"

This system is beneficial for both Fetch and the pop-up vendors.

"We just really want to kind of both promote the event together and then we can maybe get new customers from their following and then vice versa," Miller said.

Both owners said they love to watch the pop-up vendors grow.

"It's really exciting," Froman said. "Especially for me, seeing a physical storefront is like my favorite."

Pop-up vendor works toward storefront

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Jhy Coulter owns Devoured Pizza and dreams of opening her own storefront.

"We came up with a micro-concept and it's called Orange by Devoured, so this is going to be your neighborhood pizza shop," Coulter said.

She discovered her love for making pizza during the pandemic.

"I started in my backyard," Coulter said. "It was just a way for me to see family and friends and connect with them while social distancing."

Those backyard pizza parties have evolved into pop-ups across Kansas City.

"We want to push your palette," she said. "We want to get you in the door and try new things."

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Recently, Coulter set up a page on Mainvest, a crowdfunding investment website. Thanks to the community, the funding goal was met and her neighborhood pizza shop is one step closer to reality.

"I wanted to open up a pizza shop," she said. "I've always dreamed to have my own restaurant or establishment."

Back at Servaes Brewery for Slow Rise's pop-up, customers don't mind waiting in line. Brett Davis said it was worth the wait, and others were quick to agree.

"I see that they sell out everywhere they go almost immediately,” customer Jess Cordell said.

It's proof the rising trend of pop-ups will continue.

"One of our customers made a comment, 'How does it feel to know that you bring joy on Sunday morning?'" Jessica Dunkel said. "It's such a wonderful feeling."

Get to know the vendors

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Bleach Bae: Abbey Kobylinski

Get to know Bleach Bae's Abbey Kobylinski

MiddlestWest: Ashley Leutz

Get to know MiddlestWest's Ashley Leutz

Corvus Curiosities: Sarah Charlton

Get to Know Corvus Curiosities' Sarah Charlton

AHalOfAGirl: Hallie Marcase

Get to know AHalOfAGirl's Hallie Marcase

If you would like to attend a pop-up event, check the below social media pages for dates, times and locations:

As part of KSHB 41 News' commitment to providing context and depth in our reporting, we're excited to share our latest project, which we're calling 360. This project takes stories and topics that our communities are talking about and explores different perspectives on the issue. You can be a part of the process by e-mailing your ideas and thoughts to us at