When Podio's Chairman Thomas Madsen-Mygdal told me at South By Southwest last week they were creating their own application store for their flexible software tool, I wasn't surprised. Then he clarified - he meant they were launching a real-life store in San Francisco yesterday that anyone can walk into, to get help creating a custom application that runs on the Podio platform.

You hear about fashion companies doing pop-up stores. There was even a PopTart pop-up store in midtown Manhattan recently. But a software store for a small Danish software company? And in San Francisco, where there are a huge number of programmers?

DSC_2751"The company is starting our US operations with a store," said Madsen-Mygdal, "and we're launching our next version. We've run lots of workshops with customers, and we love meeting people who will use our products. This is a place where we can run seminars and  have a location for people to walk in and ask questions."

What is Podio? "We used to be able to create simple Filemaker templates or macros in Excel, but we lost that somewhere when we started moving to the web. Podio brings back the ease of creating your own applications. It's a web-based platform where you can build your own applications and use the tools for what you need to do. Instead of 20 web applications, you have everything in one environment. it is our attempt to build the next generation of simple tools for your own needs. These tools exist within a social space, so everyone can collaborate. They're designed to scale from small teams to company intranets. Tools can be used within your company or across companies."

Podio will be free for the first 10 users in a space or project. There will be a flat fee per month plus a small fee per user after the initial 10, so small businesses can basically try this for free. Currently, all the apps in their market place are also free. But if someone creates an innovative module in the app store, they will get value as others improve it or as they are able to consult on it.  Podio will highlight their best developers and feature them in seminars or workshops. And in the future, they'll have a way for developers to charge money for modules they create.

Madsen-Mygdal gave me an example of a woman who runs a magazine. She used the plaform to create a production flow, a database of freelancers, a task management app to delegate tasks and to stay organized. This non-technical user was able to create an application to run her entire company in less than 5 hours, and it fit her company's needs better than piecing together other tools. Users can create their own modules, or get them from Podio's (on-line) application store.

The real-life store has that Northern European design feeling, which Madsen-Mygdal assures me is due to "a few trips to Ikea and our team's do-it-yourself ethos." The pictures show a design that combines an Apple store-like asthetic with a hip cafe. "We flew in our team from Copenhagen, and yesterday, we did a hack day. Today we had 80 people come by for a lunchtime meetup who are Europeans living in the SF area. Anyone can walk in from the street and get help building their own app if they want it."

Creating a store is certainly one way to get attention for the launch of a new product. "Usually you do a party and have a band. We're doing that too. But this is more about becoming a part of the local community instead of just having one evening event. For now the store is open for a few weeks, and then we'll evaluate whether we move to regular office space, or to keep our offices in the store and use the space for a place to do events and create community around our software."

What happens if the store concept takes off? "If we like the way it works out in SF as a prototype, we may open more stores in Copenhagen and potentially in other cities as well."

The store is at 224 6th Street near Howard Street in San Francisco. Would your small business be more likely to create a custom application if you could go talk to the developers in a store about how to customize it? Is this a good stunt or a potential future trend in software retail? Let us know what you think in the comments below.