“I started my business ReFound early 2010, just before the high street ‘vacated the building’. My idea was to use a pop up, temporary event based retail store as a testing ground for the ReFound furniture products. The idea was to show people how creative upcycling could actually produce some wonderful treasures for the interior. By engaging the local creative designers and makers to make their mark on an unwanted piece of furniture, we could not only promote reuse, recycle and restyle, but also the wealth of creative talent that many people may not have heard of.
The first pop up shop was a great success so more were planned, with more artists and more old furniture. The high streets vacancy rates were starting to take hold by the time we came to our third pop up show, so ReFound went from hustling landlords and agents for a pop up show, to having positive conversations about where and when we would like our next shop to be!
ReFound had attracted much interest through the use of pop up’s in Northern Ireland and also in Glasgow, even collaborating with a local restaurateur to produce a pop up restaurant – HOME POP-UP in Belfast, creating a cool, nostalgic interior and selling the refound furniture. Many visitors made the ReFound shops a destination. Some coming to the area for the first time; many also ate and drank locally while visiting the shop, so other local shops and restaurants also reaped the benefits of attracting more people to the area.
The regeneration element to a pop-up is obvious; having a shutter up and people using the space makes it much more attractive to a potential tenant. We cleaned and painted our spaces as we needed it to be an attractive setting for exhibition-come-retail.
Seven pop-up shops in and several projects under our belt, we have now refined the ethos of ReFound. We have built a great following of people who love the idea of ‘sustainable creativity.’ With a focus on great design that’s sustainably produced, we offer something different and individual in interior products. And so the time has recently come to take a permanent space. One empty shop particularly took to us, as we did to it. A late Georgian Terrace in the heart of Belfast. It still has its original features of cornicing, shutters and later addition of Victorian fireplaces. After 10 years of dereliction we did a ‘refound’ on it, and have brought in back into use for those visiting out showroom to enjoy.
The temporary pop up shows across a 2 and half years allowed me to grow a reasonable pace, build grassroots fans and refine our idea; crucially I was able to do this without having the large overheads of a full-time shop.
Now that I am becoming a high-street retailer myself, it will be a new world of being on the other side – but for me, it was much better to learn at my pace with pop-ups than to jump straight it! But I’m ready to jump…”
ReFound’s director Jill O’Neill was born and raised in Belfast and moved to Glasgow to complete a degree in Art History. She took a bold leap to New York in 1999 to work in publishing, in SPIN Magazine, and her magazine career continued in San Francisco and then London in 2002. Finding herself back in Belfast in 2007, she started working with artists and launched Refound as a series of pop up shops.