Small Pop Up Shop in NYC has Big Impact on Visitors

Every pop up shop entrepreneur hopes that their store will leave a lasting impression on customers, but for one group, getting repeat business was the last thing on their minds. In fact, the goal wasn’t to boost sales at all.

For two days, a pop up shop in iconic New York City was the scene of a social experiment, the likes of which the world had never seen before.

First-Time Gun Buyer? We Are Here to Help You.

As people went about their busy days in NYC, a new pop up shop moved in. It was a modest place, formerly home to an art gallery, but it got good foot traffic, and the area was known across the globe. White lettering across the window read: “First-Time Gun Buyer? We Are Here to Help You,” and the interior of the pop up shop was fully stocked with everything an avid gunman could want.

A friendly man at the counter greeted each person as they entered, inquiring about what prompted them to stop in. “Protection” was a common answer, as was “Safety.” As any good shopkeep would do, the man then procured a gun from his selection, and began to showcase its features.

Collectors Love this One

For one gentleman, a .223 calibre rifle was selected. “Collectors love this one,” the man behind the counter said. Without missing a beat, he added, “Adam Lanza’s mother had one in her collection too, until he took this and several other guns and killed her and went down to Sandy Hill, killed 6 teachers and 20 innocent children.”

Hidden Cameras Captured it All

Each gun-owner-to-be was treated in the same fashion and was offered a weapon suited to his or her tastes. From there, the “buyer” would be told the history of the item, including a notable incident involving it, as well as the number of deaths and injuries that occurred. Not surprisingly, between 80 and 90% of shoppers changed their minds and opted not to purchase a gun after all. Between the gravity of the situation and learning that guns actually create a less-safe environment, it was a decision easily reached by most. Of course, none of the guns were real anyway. They were the equivalent of stage props, in an elaborate scene, complete with hidden cameras to capture the reactions of very real customers as they learned what they were shopping for.

The Big Reveal

The pop up shop was part of a massive and highly-successful campaign called “Guns with History,” launched by States United To Prevent Gun Violence. The video of hidden camera footage went viral, reaching nearly 200 countries and gaining the attention of people all over the United States, including celebrities and President Obama. Though the shop closed after just two days, the video lingers on and has received over 4.6 million views on YouTube and nearly one million more on Facebook to-date. Those who wish to experience the GWH gun shop may still do so by visiting the “online store.”

Behind the Scenes

Julia Wyman, Executive Director of States United To Prevent Gun Violence, was kind enough to speak with us a bit about the pop up shop project. The group has been working tirelessly to put an end to the 30,000 deaths and 80,000 injuries that needlessly occur every year as a result of lax firearm laws.

Much of the time, guns are purchased because people believe they will be safer, but nothing could be farther from the truth. When a Gallop poll indicated that America was still clinging to this false belief, the group knew they had to come up with an innovative way to reach out to people. Though the video makes it look like setting up the pop up shop was a breeze, Wyman says a lot of planning went into the campaign.

More than 50 people worked on the project, from the store clerk who was a hired actor, to the camera crew, legal team, marketing team, and more. She likened the experience to preparing to film a movie, as there was a lot of setup, planning, and permits to obtain in advance. With that said, Wyman feels the project was a success.

“People really felt a connection to the tragedy of the situation,” she explained. “They have the intention to protect their family, but the very thing they use for protection is what harms them.” It’s a universal message, as the entire country has felt the heartache of loss after these shootings.

While the goal of “Guns with History” was to reach out to the public and encourage mindful reflection, the SUPGV Action Fund, Inc. is now working on a program to reach out to legislators. By visiting, individuals can give a voice to those “left voiceless by guns.” The platform lists the profiles of people who were killed by guns, and allows users share a social post about the victim with a pro-gun legislator in their state to encourage legislators to reconsider their position on Common-Sense Gun Laws.

There is also an option to download a custom Ghost Vote profile photo that users can upload to their social media profiles, in an effort to help generate awareness for the cause.

Groups seeking to spread a message can have a massive impact by giving people an experience they will remember for life, just as ecommerce stores benefit from allowing consumers to touch and examine wares from time to time. However, this pop up shop campaign went above and beyond and is truly one for the books.

By coming up with a unique strategy and integrating the physical presence with a video, website, and social media campaign, the group took non-profit public awareness to a whole new level. Overall, this campaign changed lives, and it serves as an inspiration to others of what can be achieved with creativity and a short-term rental.