Art fairs are a big deal in the Twin Cities. From big, annual events in Uptown, Edina and Powderhorn to the growing pop-ups more in tune with seasonal or holiday shopping, their popularity is only on the rise in parallel to the buy local movement.
Hayley Matthews-Jones, an event planner by day, grew up attending craft markets with her family in London. When she settled in Minneapolis a few years ago, she noted that the city lacked a regular, permanent market, a weekly destination instead of a special event.
Seeing the demand for locally made artistry, she has launched the Minneapolis Craft Market, which meets Sundays, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., at Sociable Cider Werks, 1500 Filmore St. NE.
“It was something I grew up with,” she said, fondly remembering family outings in her native England.
The idea is to feature rotating and regular vendors outside with a variety of crafts, comparable to a farmer’s market. While the big craft fairs draw 75 to 100 (or more) vendors, Matthews-Jones pulls from that same pool but spreads it out. Early markets have featured 12–20 artists, with many returning as regulars. There’s something for everyone, she said, but also something different every week. Articles include clothing, beads, woodworking, photography, tote bags, metalsmithing, jewelry and more.
Minneapolis Craft Market is meant to be festive, but more of a gathering than a party. There is live music and DJs as well as beer, cider, food trucks, and non-alcoholic beverages. To capture the tone, she’s utilized brewery parking lots thus far. They provide the beverages and often have food trucks already scheduled, and she sees an ideological overlap between craft beer drinkers and those who purchase locally made artistry. Taking place on Sunday afternoon, it’s meant as a relaxing and family friendly event, though, and not as a block party.
“Outside has a completely different atmosphere,” she said, that’s more festival and jovial than an indoor space. Noting that Vienna, where her sister lives, features a popular Christmas market, she believes Minnesota can handle it too.
“Vienna doesn’t have the subzero temperatures, but it’s a whole community thing that people do in winter,” she said.
She provides space heaters, fire pits and other accommodations to counter the climate and, by taking place in the Social Cider Werks parking lot it will offer climate control close by, just in case. Social Cider Werks also sells hot mulled cider, giving an excuse for patrons to brave the elements, heat in hand.
Farmers markets are exceptionally popular, she noted, and the launch of Bauhaus Brew Labs’ Night Market this summer was met with enormous fanfare as well, emphasizing the demand. Her market, she stressed, is different, even if it’s also held at a brewery for the time being. “The night crowd automatically pulls in a different group,” she said, returning to stories of England and casual family environments versus an entertainment-themed event.
Minneapolis Craft Market is geared toward the artists and keeping them happy is her biggest concern. She’s introduced a referral program to encourage new vendors and sign-up for each week is allowed until eight days beforehand, keeping it simple and direct. A listing of participants is featured on Facebook by Wednesday of each week.
Through the first few weeks, the market has met Matthews-Jones’ expectations, describing it as a relaxing place for regular outings. “That’s what we do on Sunday afternoons,” she said. “I don’t want it to feel like you’re going to an event, I want it to feel like what you do on a Sunday. The after brunch crowd and multiple generations, that’s really what I was hoping for.”
If early returns are representative, she’s on track. Social media RSVPs indicate growth and she will adapt with more food, vendor, entertainment, and atmospheric touches. She plans to scale back during the coldest months to examine the market’s early successes and failures, rebooting in the spring.
Currently booked through December, she’ll consider an indoor setting for January to April, maybe once a month to stay on the map, she says, before a second phase begins. Perhaps the market will find a space of its own, she said. It could still feature beer, via partnership, and having a constant location would be easier for customers week by week. The plans are bigger, bolder, and always focused on one key theme: creating an experience as well as a buy-local shopping outlet.
So far the Northeast Arts District has been a natural fit, both culturally and in space. While in the short term she doesn’t see any movement across the metro, she does see one thing she could have done differently to keep the door open. “I named it Minneapolis Craft Market,” she reflected, laughing. “That was maybe short sited.”