by Kirby Lindsay
As Ashanti Mosby explained, “I started out with two tables” at the Fremont Sunday Market. She now regularly sells her wares - clothes, earrings, and bags – on what she called “the Seattle festival circuit” which includes Bumbershoot, the West Seattle Street Fair and, for her Rastafarian gear, some Reggae shows. Now Mosby has brought her business in from the cold, and until December 29, she has her first ever retail store, located at 720 North 35th Street.
Mosby launched her business into the world of brick-and-mortar retail as a try-out. In November, the previous tenant, Joy Street, shut down and in January Judy’s Custom Alterations will permanently relocate there. Mosby does have long term aspiration to move beyond 4p.m. booth breakdowns of the Market, and become a Fremont retailer as many have before her.
Jon Hegeman founded the Fremont Sunday Market with his wife, Candace Reiter, in 1990. Since then many vendors have transformed into stationary businesses. Hegeman acknowledged the appeal of the low-risk setting of the Market, and its low overhead, as a great place for new entrepreneurs to start as they refine their product lines and learn business practices.
Yet Hegeman grew more excited when speaking about the next new thing. He and his son, Ryan Reiter, capture photos and video of Market vendors to place them on Twitter and Facebook. “We’re going to be teaching how to use social media to increase visibility,” Hegeman explained, “we’re starting now so in the spring when the weather is better, we will have the vendors practiced.”
Mosby expressed her gratitude for all the help Hegeman has given her in the infancy of her business. Anita Roos gave the Market credit for her entire product line. “That was the first place I started making crepes,” she admitted. Anita’s Crepes is now one a small Fremont restaurant (at 4350 Leary Way NW) made visible by the line of customers who wait to get in. “I was going to sell pastries,” she said, or strawberry shortcake. “He said that won’t sell in winter,” Roos said of her first conversation with Hegeman, when he told her to make crepes. She recalls responding, ‘I can do it, I can do anything!’
Although she now has a restaurant, catering work and a concession in the Microsoft cafeteria, Roos continues with the outdoor markets. “We do eleven Farmer’s markets a week during summer,” she explained, “the main reason I do it is that I like it.” She likes talking with customers, being close to the food plus, she said, “I can be outside making crepes.”
“I sat outdoors for 10 years,” admitted Michelle Conley, before opening her store, Mishu (at 465 North 36th St), in October 2007. Conley also continues to work festivals, fairs and trade shows to sell the clothing she designs and has made in India. “I’ve been gearing up for wholesale. I wanted to sell to stores,” she explained.
“I always made my own clothes, jewelry, hand-embroidering,” Conley said, “and people wanted to buy it. Now it’s my full passion, and my dream.” She started selling at festivals in Oregon but tasted her first success in Fremont. “That’s why I moved here,” she said, “because I did so good at the Sunday Market.”
Conley only opened her retail location after her mother led her into the previous tenant’s closing sale. “The store spoke to me,” she admits, chagrined. While operating the small retail space in Fremont, she struggles to grow her wholesale business. She continues to pursue her dream; “I want to sell to tons of boutiques.”
Baby Steps lead to Adult Strides
“I aspire to be like Michelle and Anita,” Mosby admitted. At the Market, she’s asked advice of both Conley and Roos. She also has taken business classes and will soon take training through Washington CASH. While she likes to travel, and selling treasures she found became a way to fund trips, today she has focused on her business, “It has grown so much, and it is time to take it to the next level.”
Besides incubating businesses at the Market, Hegeman pointed out that sometimes the process works in reverse. Sylvan Johnson, who closed Fritzi-Ritz here after two decades in business, now sells at the Market. Dearly departed Fremonster Josh Logan also switched to the Market after closing his store Ah Nuts! According to Hegeman, the owner of Railey’s has also said he’ll liquidate stock on Sundays after his store closes on December 31.
The Market, “offers a place between e-Bay and renting a store,” Hegeman explained, and “it’s baby steps for some people.” Whatever it is, the next new business elsewhere may come from corporate minds, but in Fremont they may just as likely come from the sidewalks, and Sundays.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.