New Midtown venue offers pop-up space for creatives
By Zack Sherzad
Most days, it’s easy to miss The Creative Space. Situated on the busy corner of 16th and U streets in Midtown, its unassuming brick facade competes with an adjacent flower shop display. But come back during one of its bimonthly events, and you’ll find the bare sidewalk filled with a variety of pop-up shops.
At the center are sisters Jennifer and Remy Tokunaga. Both were raised in Sacramento. Both have straight black hair and business degrees. Both are alumni of the Disney Institute, The Walt Disney Company’s professional development program. To them, passing on their experience is an integral part of making Sacramento a city they are proud to live in. Their shared passion for community building is tangible and infectious.
“Small business runs in our blood,” Remy says. “Our aunt runs the flower shop next door. Before that, it was our grandmother’s. It’s always been a family business. We grew up helping them on busy days, like Valentine’s Day. So we’ve always known how hard it can be to start and grow a business.”
“And it’s harder than ever to be a small business owner,” Jennifer says. “You have to be the creative, the accountant, the marketing manager, the web designer, all at the same time. It’s easy to get stuck in your head, doing all of that at the same time. So we try to be that extra brain for our pop-up businesses. Another set of hands, or just someone to bounce ideas off of.”
It’s hard to talk about anything from the past year without mentioning COVID. The Creative Space is no exception. The sisters opened The Creative Space in March 2020, intending to use the building as a venue for specialty classes—ikebana, chocolate making and cake decorating, among others.
Just as they finished renovating the building, the first round of COVID lockdowns forced them to close. They are frank about how it has affected their new business, but they make a habit of focusing on the positives.
“The pop-up market, that was born from the lockdowns, and it’s become the core of our business: partnering with local makers and bakers, giving them a chance to show themselves off in a professional way, helping them to grow and thrive,” Jennifer says. “Many of these businesses were born from COVID. They either lost jobs and needed to figure out a side hustle, or they decided they didn’t want to rely on big corporations anymore. A lot of them are brand new, just starting out, and they don’t know the steps to take. So for us to be able to say that we’re helping these new businesses thrive, in spite of everything—it means a lot to us.”
Fé-lan Flores of Macarons by Fé-lan has been “popping up” at The Creative Space since November. She makes and sells homemade French macarons in deliciously unique flavors like creme brulee, PB&J and ube halaya, a Philippine dessert made of purple yams. They are neatly packaged and arranged on her table, ready to move.
“Jen and Remy are super supportive and helpful,” says Flores. “They’re big advocates of small businesses like us. They’ve helped us get ourselves out there, helped us with advertising and Instagram and all that. And they’re great at organizing the events. They’ll assign us spots so we all complement each other, so we don’t have five pop-ups all selling cupcakes.”
Melanie Johnson of Butter & Nut is also popping up at The Creative Space. She quit her job as a 911 operator to pursue her passion for keto-friendly, gluten-free baking. Other than some rustic-looking wooden crates and a sign, her booth is bare.
“We’re completely sold out!” Johnson says, smiling behind her mask. “Jen and Remy made the whole process very smooth. They helped me set up my tent, and are always coming by asking if I need anything. I love working with them.”
To check The Creative Space’s calendar of events, visit www.thecreativespacesac.com or follow them on Instagram @thecreativespacesac.
Zack Sherzad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.