On Nov. 18, the lobby of the Education Building was transformed into a cozy and cheerful winter wonderland for the faculty’s first annual Holiday Pop-Up Shop. This festive kickoff to the holiday season showcased 19 student vendors selling everything from cupcakes to wooden bowties. Glittering snowflakes hung from the ceiling, Christmas lights twinkled, and jazzy holiday tunes played behind the sound of cheerful banter, making the pop-up shop an uplifting destination on a chilly November day. Shoppers could rest their legs at the canteen, which served the Education Undergraduate Society’s self-proclaimed “famous” grilled cheese along with home-made lemonade, located on a balcony overlooking the festivities.
The pop-up shop is one of many events put on by McGill student groups to benefit Centraide, an organization that invests in local groups to aid in alleviating poverty and social exclusion in Montreal. This includes many grassroots initiatives, such as providing tutoring services for students who can’t afford help. Last year, the combined money raised for this cause by McGill groups totalled over $500,000.
The warm, community feel in the room was in large part due to the fact that the event was entirely student-run, aside from the coordinator, Jennifer Coutlee, who is the Alumni Relations and Special Events officer at the Faculty of Education.
“I was mandated by the Dean to raise money for Centraide and I thought the best way to do that would be to involve the students,” Coutlee said.
Being a crafty person herself, Coutlee decided to put on a holiday pop-up shop. After sending out the call for students with a crafty hobby or side business, she received more interested vendors than the lobby could contain.
“The response was overwhelming,” Coutlee said. “I actually had to turn people away.”
This encouraging response has lead organizers to consider moving next year’s event into the building’s library, which is about four times the size of the lobby, to accommodate more vendors. This huge engagement from students manifested not only in the number of vendors, but also in the volunteers that spent the day before the event decorating the lobby and facilitating the event day-of. . The community feel of this student-run event fits very well with Centraide, the cause that the event was benefitting.
According to Kira Smith, a U3 Arts student and a McGill representative for Centraide, the organization’s goal for this year is to raise $1 million among McGill students.
“We love how every single faculty does what they can,” Smith said of the group effort made by the McGill community to support the Montreal community at large.
Vendors, volunteers, and shoppers alike were excited to be sharing the holiday spirit. Jillian Agustin, U4 Education, sold hand-decorated mugs bearing themes such as Harry Potter and Pokémon for her startup, Mug Life. She explained that she was happy to be selling at the pop-up shop because of the social aspect of the event.
“I like talking to people and seeing all of the other art and creativity,” Augustin said.
The students certainly showcased their creativity, treating shoppers to a wide selection of food ranging from pickled vegetables to cupcakes decorated to look like Cookie Monster. Handmade goods like greeting cards, jewellery, and leather products gave customers many options for Christmas gifts and personal treats alike.
“It’s very well put together,” Gwenn Barrett, a U0 Education student at the shop in search of a gift for her sister, commented.
The Faculty of Education Holiday Pop-Up shop provided the perfect start to the holiday season, while bringing students of all faculties together and supporting a great local cause. The smiles on the faces of all attendees proved the success of the initiative and set the stage for an even bigger, better, and merrier pop-up shop to come next year.