FARGO — Attention: small business owners.

Here's your chance to enroll in Brick and Mortar 101.

If you've dreamed of someday opening your own physical storefront, West Acres Shopping Center has introduced The Local Collective, a 1,700-square-foot pop-up retail space which will temporarily house a rotating schedule of local and regional retail businesses whose owners long to see what it's like to run a brick-and-mortar space.

Applicants are being accepted from interested entrepreneurs who would like to "test drive" what it's like to operate a shopping center retail space before committing to the inventory and staffing demands of a long-term lease.

"Pop-ups have been growing in popularity in the last few years," says Niki DeConcini, director of marketing and events for West Acres Development, LLP. "Since the pandemic, it can be extremely daunting for a small business-owner to step into a brick-and-mortar space right now. A lot of people don't want to make that commitment to a long-term lease, but this allows them to just dip their toes into it."

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Located in the JC Penney wing, The Local Collective space previously was home to Minn-Dak Market. The market has moved into the former Gap Kids space, which was shuttered as part of the corporate retailer's plan to close 350 Gap and Banana Republic stores across North America by 2023.

The new Collective space, which currently houses the mall's artists-in-residence, is freshly remodeled, DeConcini says. "It's a great, open space with white finishes. The flooring is beautiful and there's a back room and fitting room, so it's completely set up and ready to go as a turn-key space for one of these pop-ups."

The Local Collective will showcase a revolving and diverse assortment of pop-up shops, which could encompass any concept from apparel designers and makers to merchants of prepackaged foods and florists. The only type of business it's not set up for is over-the-counter food service — at least, not yet. "We’re working on that concept separately, kind of as a sister to that concept, which we hope to launch by the end of the year," DeConcini says.

DeConcini says local and regional small business owners have expressed interest in The Local Collective and she expects applications will only grow as word-of-mouth spreads. The West Acres staff will assess applications to determine which best fit the format, with plans to launch the first pop-up shop in September. They are hoping each pop-up will be in The Local Collective for at least a month, which allows customers a chance to visit the store several times while giving the business owners a taste of what running a physical retail space is like.

However, if a certain pop-up is highly successful and the owner is interested in staying longer, DeConcini says they would consider options such as running two or more complementary pop-ups in the same space.

Pop-up tenants would work out a short-term lease agreement. By setting up shop in the mall, tenants would also be able to ask questions and receive support from West Acres staff, DeConcini says.

She says small business and the entrepreneurial spirit are important values to West Acres' leadership and team. "We are a small business ourselves," she says. "Our CEO is the son of our founder, and there are a lot of benefits to that. We love local and have a passion for entrepreneurship … this felt like this was the direction we wanted to take it."

Applications can be found at https://bit.ly/2T6gBYw or by contacting the West Acres office at 701-282-2222

In other West Acres news, the CaringforKids Playland is again open. The playland, located in the shopping center's food court, will close briefly throughout the day -- from 7 to 7:30 a.m., 11 to 11:30 a.m. and 4:15 to 4:45 p.m. -- for cleaning.