by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 4 August 2015
In September 2015, the Fremont Sunday Market arrives at the start of its 25th year. What started as a fun, kitschy, arts-rich collection of vendors has grown and grown, and spun off dozens of other community markets all over Seattle, while remaining its same, always original, ideal spot for finding the unusual, absurd, stylish and/or never-before-seen.
“If you want to stay in style,” Oleana Perry observed, “we have so many vendors that have degrees in fashion, art and style. They have to start somewhere.” In fact, Perry explained, “Wholesalers come down and cherry pick from among the vendors. The Market is a seed for new products.”
Personal, And Friendly, Shoppers
The Fremont Sunday Market provides a weekly, relaxed shopping excursion that may be more like checking in with friends and family, and their latest finds, than shopping. “We all have errands to run,” Perry said, “When you go to the big corporate store you have a sterile environment, no conversation, where people walk around like zombies. Walking the Market is a real community setting, where you have more fun with your errands.”
“Know the people who make the products you buy,” Perry advised, “and keep your money local.” For those who do get curious about the origins of the products they buy, be it antique or a wholly new creation, Fremont Market vendors can give minute details on the items they sell, since most personally found or handmade the products they sell. Market visitors who just want to stroll, see, and perhaps buy, can do that too.
“All of my house is decorated in Market finds,” Perry explained, “most of my clothes, about 90%, and 100% of my jewelry, comes from the Market.” Like other regular shoppers, Perry has become so familiar to certain Market vendors that they’ll keep their eye out for pieces, vintage or new, that she might like. “I have personal shoppers,” she said.
It makes sense, as Perry is the Vendor Manager for the Fremont Sunday Market and the Terry Avenue Saturday Market, and her enthusiasm, for the Markets and her vendors – those who come once and may never again as well as those who show up weekly – is part of her personality now. She will brag on all of them, and the unique, creative items and services they provide – along with those who, during the summer months, park in the Fremont Market’s special area for food trucks. “The food court has something for everyone,” Perry boasted.
A Natural Rotation
At the Fremont Market, the craft, flea, and farm vendors fall into two types – members and non. Members pay $65 for the calendar year, and provide a valid Seattle business license and State Sales Tax number (although newly formed businesses will be given one month’s grace to get theirs.) As a member, vendors get first priority on booth space (including a preset space, if available,) promotion on social media and informative newsletters full of tips and advisories.
Non-members can vend once each year at the Fremont Market, although they must show up early (7a) to get a space and they pay based on the size of the space they want ($60 gets a 10’ x 10’ booth.) For new businesses, business close-outs or someone wanting to reach out to the public, the Market is an ideal opportunity, although non-members will be asked for a few details on what they will be selling.
Over 25 years the Fremont Sunday Market has evolved, some, although its still managed by members of the same two founding families. One rule that they have developed is the exclusion of big chains – at the Market, you will not find Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Nike, etc. “It’s hard to put somebody who makes handmade pottery next to Mary Kay,” Perry observed. In such situations, both vendors can lose out.
Yet, the mixture of member and non-member vendors that appear every week at the Market create on their own an ever changing landscape. Perry, and the others that operate the Market year ‘round, offer a lot of assistance to these micro-businesses, promoting them on social media and advising them on ways to self-promote.
Perry likes to see the vendors growing and thriving, although she acknowledged that, “it’s not all of their goals to have a brick-and-mortar.” Some vendors, she explained, prefer to stay small, and flexible, able to take weeks off from selling to care for their families, travel, take seasonal work elsewhere, etc. “That’s what keeps that natural rotation,” of the vendors, she explained.
Shop Local, Shop Small & Shop Friends
Perry knows about vending from inside the booth as well. Her mother etched glass, and sold pieces around Eastern Washington. Perry has also done vending herself. She likes the way the Market provides a safe, dependable place for selling goods on the small scale. “It’s not got the financial risk,” of opening a ‘store’, Perry explained, and vendors don’t have to commit to being behind the counter, or in an office, every day for years. “You don’t have to book six months in advance,” she said, “you can take vacations.”
The Market also builds clientele – “We have people that come to Seattle Pops every week,” Perry observed – and gives vendors a chance to talk, one-on-one, with their customers. “You can have real conversations,” she said.
Most importantly, “you rarely see sad people at the Market,” Perry said. The Fremont Sunday Market is one of the largest, and longest running, markets in the state of Washington – and it takes place every week, all year ‘round, right in our backyard. Stop by next week, say hello to Perry (she’ll be there somewhere!,) and meet the vendors that she loves so much. Find out what it means to shop local, shop small and shop among friends at the Fremont Market!
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©2015 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.