If you attended the Retro Indie Market at the Boynton Woman's Club Saturday, February 2, you might have noticed something. The crowds of recent years have thinned, ever so slightly. This is not to cast aspersions on the Retro Indie Market or on Michelle Parparian and Amanda Linton, the organizers of the annual event as well as its big sister, Stitch Rock which takes place in October.
There were still many vendors and a line that extended around the front of the building. Last year, however, the line wrapped around the building and halfway down the block, and the historic edifice fairly bulged at the seams with vendors.
Though the lack of congestion actually made for a more enjoyable experience, to those of us who love these events, it's also a cause for concern. Luckily, for anyone hungry for more, there's a solution on the horizon.
Chris Gaidry and Amanda Weiner organize a different collection of local indie markets. They are responsible for City-Wide (monthly at the War Memorial Auditorium - next one March 2 and 3), Night Owl Market (which takes place as part of the FAT Village Art Walk the last Saturday of the month - next one March 30), and the Indie Craft Bazaar
(which takes place at RevolutionLive and Greenroom every other month - next one February 24).
They have seen the indie markets proliferate and they have watched many of them fail. Gaidry sees the waning attendance as a symptom of the scene being harmed by its own success.
"I think there's a few symptoms at play. With the craft fairs, it's a lot of the same faces so if the same people are shopping and the same vendors are there, they're not going to be motivated to come back out. And the crop of real artisans is really slim. We'll get hundreds of applications, but they don't necessarily rise to the level that we're looking for," says Gaidry.
In fact, the most recent City-Wide Market took place the same day as the Retro Indie Market, pulling in opposite directions from the same pool of vendors and potential customers.
Gaidry also says that, though the bad economy might have originally driven the spread of the markets, it is now conspiring against them.
"Obviously a lot of it was born out of people finding alternative income streams. Everyone was starting up markets, but they don't realize how expensive it is. You can't just soak the vendors with exorbitant fees and then not deliver the crowds. And I don't think people like paying an entrance fee. I think you're going to see that go away. I think if we can get more people in there, I think if we can get an older crowd, they have a little more buying power."
Looking to the future, Gaidry and Weiner believe they have found the secret to the long term success of the markets - food.
The City-Wide Market has always tried to set itself apart from other markets. They are in the heart of downtown, have unlimited free parking, are usually themed to a holiday, sponsor some kind of good cause, and feature a DIY for attendees and an activity for kids. The monthly event is always a two-day affair and the next one the weekend of March 2 and 3 will be expanded even further.
Food In Motion is the name of the food market component taking place the evening of Friday, March 1.
There will be food trucks and local greenmarket food vendors, as well as many of the indie vendors who will be participating in the market over the weekend. Most importantly, he's looking into some kind of tables so attendees aren't standing around spilling food on themselves while balancing their plates. And if all of that is not enough of a draw, Gaidry's silver bullet? Free beer.
"The free beer is going to be something I think is pretty different. Having high quality food trucks and not just, like, ten latin burger trucks will help. The food trucks have a big draw, they have big Facebook followings, I think the greeenmarket vendors are a little more small fry and will benefit from the crowd that the food trucks will bring in. I think the melding of all that together, means we might be exposing a demographic that has never seen this stuff before. I think it's a great mix and helps keep the antique and the vintage relevant because if we don't get another generation interested, it's going to go away."
But Gaidry promises that this won't be just another food truck roundup. So far, they are expecting 11 gourmet food trucks. With nothing locked down yet, Gaidry did not mention any by name, though he said that two of them have been featured on the Food Network.
"It's more that just going to a food truck rally. It's going to be somewhere that people can shop and learn something and interact with your community.
The Food In Motion Market takes place the evening of Friday, March 1 in Holiday Park which fronts the War Memorial Auditorium
where the the City-Wide Market will take place Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3. The War Memorial Auditorium and Holiday Park are located at 800 NE Eighth St. in Fort Lauderdale. Admission and parking are free. Follow Indie Craft Bazaar on Facebook at facebook.com/indiecraftbazaar
to keep up on the latest details.
You can contact Rebecca Dittmar by emailing [email protected]