"We want to create an affordable, walkable, sustainable market culture here in Asheville," says Jodi Rhoden, who owns Short Street Cakes in West Asheville and founded the Howard Street Handmade series of craft markets.
Dubbed Asheville Street Markets, the collaboration follows the creation of a number of new craft markets. Besides Rhoden, the group includes five other local business owners/organizers. Rosetta Star of Rosetta's Kitchen founded the Asheville People's Market (which plans to hold its first event June 7 in a parking lot across from the restaurant on Lexington Avenue). Crazy Green Studios owner Lori Theriault founded the East-West Asheville 2nd Saturday Artist Market, which kicked off earlier this year. Alexandra Brown founded the Lexington Bazaar, which held its first event May 23. And Justin Raebuck and Brandy Bourne organized perhaps the largest local craft market, the Big Crafty, which has been around for a few years and will return to Pack Place July 12.
Over a potluck dinner about a month ago, the group decided to pool resources to advertise the individual markets through a new blog, www.ashevillestreetmarkets.blogspot.com, and a brochure. They also want to help local artists and crafters find the market that's the best fit for them.
"Our intention is to promote the vendors and ultimately to add to the creative culture of our town while supporting one another," Rhoden explains.
"The economy being tight has brought to the forefront the idea of keeping our money in a tighter local circle," says Star, whose new market will be part flea market and part arts-and-crafts venue. "And the economic pinch has moved people to take action."
Star says her market will also serve as a fundraiser for the Asheville-based American Rainbow Rapid Response group, which helps bring food and water to people following natural disasters.
"One thing we're really trying to do is build the whole culture of going to a market," she notes. "In Europe, street markets are a daily part of life almost, and it's something we thought was really lacking in Asheville. We want to make that a part of what people do when they come to Asheville."
Artist Jenne Greaves says she's looking forward to the new markets and to taking part in this summer's Big Crafty event. Greaves makes and sells tiny books, some less than an inch wide.
"There are a lot of galleries around Asheville but not places where my craft would fit in," says Greaves. Selling at markets gives her work exposure while providing much-needed moral support, she explains.
"It's encouraging to have people look at my books and respond. I think my art is great, but it's nice to hear that other people think it's great, too."