New downtown Ithaca program brings multiple popups to the community for the winter

Sunshine's Creative Designs popup shop

Center Cafe by Lou, FLX Bakes, The Bloomwell Modern Giftshop Holiday Popup, and Sunshine's Creative Designs now open in downtown Ithaca

Some new eateries and specialty shops are temporarily joining the downtown community for the winter thanks to a new program created by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

Center Cafe by Lou and FLX Bakes is opened in the Center Ithaca food court, The Bloomwell: A Modern Gift Shop Holiday Popup is setting up in a space next door to Alphabet Soup, and Sunshine’s Creative Designs in the Dewitt Mall opened in November. Plus, another eatery — Urban Blendz — is expected to open in Center Ithaca soon.

All of these businesses are all part of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance’s (DIA) new pop-up program. This latest DIA initiative is designed to provide short-term leases to help support local entrepreneurs seeking temporary spaces for their business. The pop-up program contracts are an affordable option for entrepreneurs, and the agreements vary from vendor to vendor depending on the building and the entrepreneur's circumstances.

“Our pop-up program offers multiple benefits to the community. It helps businesses that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. It provides an opportunity for seasonal, outdoor entrepreneurs like Lou to offer their services indoors during the colder months. It offers temporary spaces for businesses to test out the Ithaca market. Plus, it helps activate some vacant spaces downtown,” says DIA Special Events Director Scott Rougeau, who helps recruit businesses to program.

Center Cafe by Lou serves affordable, to-go lunch and dinner options — grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and occasionally specialty sausages and soups — and freshly prepared Caribbean and South American style baked goods prepared by Adelaide Castillo, owner of FLX Bakes.

“I love this community, and I’m thrilled to be able to serve food in this location, and I love this opportunity to partner with talented people like Adelaide. Her baked goods are phenomenal,” says Lou Cassaniti, owner of Center Cafe by Lou and Lou’s Hot Dogs. Center Cafe by Lou is sharing his space with FLX Bakes.

At Sunshine's Creative Designs, you’ll find an impressive selection of many shimmering crystals and stones from around the world, and The Bloomwell Modern Giftshop pop-up is this specialty shop's second location; its original location is at 111 West State Street adjacent to the State Theatre. The temporary pop-up location will feature a selection of fantastic gift items — puzzles, scented candles, organic skincare products, non-alcoholic beverages, chocolates, and more.

“We joined the pop-up program because it was fun in the past being a part of downtown’s craft fairs during the festivals. Having a spot in the Dewitt Mall is a good way to reach local customers,” says Jim Marcy, owner of Sunshine Creative Designs. “We provide natural and unique gifts from around the world at a reasonable price. We carry products for everyone — kids to serious collectors.”

Johanna Itzel Baena, owner of The Bloomwell says, “When we learned about this pop-up program and heard there was a space temporarily available on The Commons, we felt this was the perfect opportunity to reach even more customers. We look forward to serving people at both of our locations throughout the holiday shopping season.”

Dewitt Mall is also hosting a couple of its own pop-ups for the holiday season.

Wide Awake Bakery and a group of three pottery makers are currently operating pop-up shops in the Buffalo Street Books Reading Room and Balance Aromatherapy, which carries products curated by licensed local aromatherapist Kash Wiggins, is available in Cat’s Pajamas.

For more information about these pop-ups and downtown's other businesses, visit

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