Up your selfie game for a fee in new Kansas boutique's ‘made-for-Instagram’ rooms
On a trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art last year, Alex Altomare looked on as visitors took selfies in front of its most noted paintings, including "Water Lilies" by Monet.
"I thought 'That's not how Monet intended for his art to be used,'" he said. "But what would art look like if art was designed for taking selfies?"
Altomare, a local investor and entrepreneur, first held a pop-up selfie event over the holidays in Westport.
It had an igloo of balloons, a room wallpapered in comic books, a wall of vintage pink TVs with snow static screens and an indoor beach with two tons of sand — rooms that can be viewed on its Instagram, theselfieboutique.
About 50 people showed up the first night, then 150 people the second night when Altomare decided to charge a $10 entry fee.
"People didn't hesitate. Since then all the money has gone back into paying local artists and growing the business," Altomare said.
After Westport, he also had pop-ups in the Crossroads and Lawrence, which helped grow his Instagram followers to more than 10,000.
He approached several shopping districts about opening a yearlong pop-up. But most wanted long-term leases of three or more years.
"We don't have the margins of a retailer because we are entertainment. Park Place understood that and understood the value of having an attraction with retail," he said.
Altomare teamed up with Jonny Kot, who is head of construction. Braydie Elliott is director of operations and co-founder.
They have been working on the 2,000-square-foot space, at 11535 Ash St., for three weeks, converting it to The Selfie Boutique.
Altomare commissioned some "Instagrammable art" from local artists and will have high-quality lighting used by professional photographers.
"To me that's the most exciting part of it, we are elevating the hidden talent in the art community," he said.
He said "made-for-Instagram" exhibits are a growing trend, fueled by 80 million monthly active users on Instagram who post 1,000 selfies per second. But few exhibits have multiple settings like those planned for the Selfie Boutique. It will charge $15 for people ages 13 and older, and $10 for those under 13.
Park Place also has other entertainment offerings, including Breakout KC, a locally owned escape concept, and Pinot's Palette, a franchise operation that offers painting classes while customers sip their favorite beverages.