4 September 2023

Pop Canberra bounces back from brink of insolvency bigger (and brighter) than ever

| James Coleman
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POP Canberra

Pop Canberra operations manager Christa White and founder Gabe Trew. Photo: Pop Canberra.

There’s fresh paint on the walls, new decals on the windows, 50 extra products inside, and even a new-from-the-ground-up smartphone shopping app.

All point to a remarkable turnaround for a store staring down insolvency only a few months ago.

Pop Canberra has become a Lonsdale Street institution ever since it opened during the COVID lockdown in 2020, stocking wares from small local producers within a 150 km radius of the ACT.

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However, documents lodged with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) in April 2023 reveal all was not well. Pop owed about $1 million to 13 creditors.

Founder Gabe Trew told Region “legacy problems” from the pandemic had finally caught up with him.

However, these creditors have since voted to keep Pop Canberra alive and instead accept a percentage payment of the debt owed to them, provided it’s all overseen by a deed administrator.

POP Canberra

Just in case you missed it. Photo: POP Canberra.

“The arrangement means all the parties involved are really confident the business can move forward in a really positive way, essentially,” Gabe said.

Pop sells art, jewellery, homewares, gifts, food, wine, spirits and all manner of other local boutique items.

“Not the ones we all know and love but also those people who might only have time to make five pairs of earrings a week. Now they have some way to sell it,” Gabe said.

He always remained optimistic Pop would survive and “show people you can face adversity, stick at it, and get through it”, and that’s exactly what it seems to have done.

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So far, total producers number 250, including a “real flurry” of them recently in the cookie, cake, chocolate, relish, jam and sauce space.

Several mural artists were also invited in to add some extra sparkle, with yellow splashed on the walls, pink on the floors and colourful, action-packed illustrations everywhere in between.

“It’s to really bring home the message that shopping local is fun,” Gabe explained.

Pop has also launched its own national smartphone shopping app, so “wherever you are, you can support local makers”. So far, 1000 products are already listed.

POP Canberra

POP Canberra stocks produce from about 250 local makers. Photo: POP Canberra.

Gabe said the news of the comeback had everyone “really excited”.

“I think it’s really injected this real positive sense of excitement about the future of Pop, and the future of small business in Canberra as well.”

Pop Canberra is open from 10 am to 6 pm Monday to Wednesday, 10 am to 9 pm Thursday and Friday, 9 am to 9 pm on Saturday and 9 am to 5 pm on Sunday.

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