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Houston’s Most Interesting Pop-Up Shop Is a Woman Driven Land of Artistic Whimsy — Inside the Pop-Up Co-Op

Showcasing Unique Brands and Artists, Even Taylor Swift China

BY Sofia Westerman // 06.14.24

Have you ever wanted a piece of china with Taylor Swift’s face on it? Or an emmental cheese candle? If so, you’re in luck. The Pop-Up Co-Op in the M-K-T Heights shopping center sells everything from funky hats and handmade slippers to cheeky cards and quilted coasters.

The cherry on top? The Pop-Up Co-Op exclusively represents woman-owned businesses, designers and artists, including the owner Cara Carbajal’s own whimsical upcycled china pieces. 

Carbajal knows a thing or two about retail. The Pop-Up Co-Op owner has been in the industry for almost 20 years. Her first retail experience was working in a custom quilts and pillow shop as a teenager. Carbajal opened the Pop-Up Co-Op’s first location in December 2017, when she was given the opportunity for a short-term lease at the Shops at Arrive in Upper Kirby. 

“I wanted other entrepreneurial women to have the opportunity to showcase and test their collections with a pop-up, instead of taking on the financial burden by owning a storefront in their early phases of business,” Carbajal tells PaperCity. “I reached out to a few friends I met throughout the years in the fashion industry, and we opened two weeks before Christmas.’

“I had such a positive response to the concept with more women wanting to participate that I decided to keep it going.” 

The Pop-Up Co-Op is a place with a lot of whimsical treasures. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)
The Pop-Up Co-Op is a place with a lot of whimsical treasures. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)

Carbajal’s out of the box idea proved to be unexpectedly popular, and her once humble pop-up is now a regular thing. The Pop-Up Co-Op relocated to the M-K-T development, celebrating its second anniversary there in May. Upon relocation, Carbajal decided to take a different approach to the design of the store. Instead of her previous minimal approach, Carbajal focused on making the space colorful and fun, complete with funky mirrors she upcycled. And the best part is (almost) everything in the space is up for grabs, including all the decor.

“Everything in the space is for sale, with the exception of Petunia (my antique Persian cat statue) and a Kate Moss painting by Bachman + Petrie,” Carbajal says. “Which keeps the store constantly changing.”

The Pop-Up Co-Op is colorful place where almost everything is for sale. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)
The Pop-Up Co-Op is colorful place where almost everything is for sale. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)

Not only does Carbajal run the show, but she also shoecases her own personal creations. Carbajal’s upcycled china, which started as a quarantine craft, is one of the stars of her store. She collects the antiques on her travels, from places such as Greece and Italy.

“I look to each antique piece for inspiration,” Carbajal says. “Whether it should be an iconic image or a cheeky phrase.”

Cara Carbajal's upcycled China at The Pop-Up Co-Op is one of the stars of the store. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)
Cara Carbajal’s upcycled China at The Pop-Up Co-Op is one of the stars of the store. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)

As for the other vendors showcased, Carbajal currently displays more than 46 different brands, designers and artists, 12 of which are local. Carbajal introduces two to four new brands each month, and hosts trunk shows for Houston-based businesses. Next Saturday, June 22nd she is hosting a party with Hummingbird Vintage Treasures from 11 am to 4 pm.

Some of Carbajal’s favorite new items include reversible swimwear from Canadian brand Visual Mood and Furbish Studio’s needlepoint pillows.

The Pop-Up Co-Op showcases more than 46 brands in The Heights. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)
The Pop-Up Co-Op showcases more than 46 brands in The Heights. (Photo by Sofia Westerman)

Here’s a look at what brands and artists currently have goods for sale in The Pop-Up Co-Up: 

— Tutu & Lilli (apparel designed and made in Houston)

— Shop 1988 (curated contemporary and vintage apparel, upcycled china)

Kimono Zulu (vintage kimonos)

— Nicolle Dhimes (artist – canvas to silk scarves)

— Traci Ling (artist/ photographer)

— La Planta (botanical resin artist)

— Tyler Darling (artist and portrait painter)

— Aster + Bone (artist – ethically sourced hand painted deer skulls)

— Meribeth Privett (artist)

— Marta Clegg (artist – embellished crosses)

— Michelle King (artist)

— Shaw Hill (antique jewelry)

The Pop-Up Co-Op is located in M-K-T Heights at 600 N. Shepherd Drive suite No. 110. The store is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 am to 7 pm, and Sundays from noon to 5 pm. You can shop online here

Cara Carbajal is hosting a party next Saturday, June 22nd with Hummingbird Vintage Treasures from 11 am to 4 pm at the pop-up store. Cali Sober also will be there, sampling and selling its THC hemp infused drinks. For more information, go here.

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