Two New Kensington community markets, less than a block from each other, at Voodoo Brewing and Knead Community Cafe, gave local vendors the chance to showcase their wares and attract new customers on Saturday.
Michelle Thom, owner of Voodoo Brewing, and Jamie Parker, owner of a bakery in New Kensington called Sweet Alchemy, have teamed up to lead the Voodoo Brewing event.
Dubbed Fairies, Flowers, and Fun: A Spring Festival, their event brought about 20 small business vendors — selling everything from homemade crafts to custom cups — to the lawn outside the brewery.
The idea was to host a family-friendly event to welcome in the spring, support small businesses and revamp downtown New Kensington, Thom said.
The duo has hosted four previous community fairs, Parker said, and plans to hold another free event on Fifth Avenue on Saturday, July 9, featuring local restaurants and alcohol vendors, as well as fire dancers and performers.
“If people come and have fun, that’s a win for us,” Parker said. “We want people to see positive things happening in this community.”
For Melissa Jackson, a local photographer who had pitched a tent for photos on Saturday, the most exciting part of the market was that it played a part in revamping her hometown of New Kensington.
“It’s exciting,” she said of what she sees as a recent revitalization of the area. “It’s inspiring, motivating. I want to be part of it.”
Jackson operates a photography business in downtown New Kensington that focuses on “women empowerment.” It offers photo sessions for young girls to dress up as princesses or fairies. Her goal, she said, is to help people reconnect with themselves — just as the goal of these community markets is to help people reconnect with their communities.
She said she was hopeful that the influx of small businesses in the area and the rise of community events and markets will draw people to New Kensington, and enable people who live there to become more involved in a community that has recently suffered a bad reputation. has had in the area of some people.
“You’d be amazed at what’s happening down here,” she said. “It’s the new New Kensington.”
Pamela Williams, a New Kensington firefighter who helped market, said she is once again proud to live in New Kensington.
“There’s a lot more going on in the community,” she said. “People get involved.”
When people gather at events like the Saturday market, small businesses get a boost, said Megan Igo, who manned a booth for Dear Neighbors Craft, a small business she founded in December that sells homemade woodworking.
“This brings out the community. It gets our name there,” she said. “We have been inundated with invitations [to community markets]† More things like this help the community get better.”
Myriah McKenzie, of Springdale, surveyed the booths with Chrissy Dibas, of Lower Burrell early Saturday afternoon. McKenzie said they wanted to visit some of the small, local businesses in the area and decided to stop by the market as well.
“I like to support small businesses,” she says. “I like to support the local people instead of Amazon and big companies.”
“It just seems more fun when things are handmade,” Dibas added.
Meanwhile at Knead Cafe
At the nearby Knead Community Cafe was their Mother Nature’s Garden Market, which had local vendors in the market selling plant-based, natural products.
The pay-what-you-can cafe hosted a similar event under a different name last year and hopes to make it an annual tradition, said co-founder Mary Bode. This year’s event attracted about 15 local vendors and several hundred people, she said.
“This market is a way to attract new people to the New Kensington area,” said Bode, adding that she, too, feels the area is being reimagined.
When the cafe opened about six years ago, she said, it was the only business around. Opening the cafe there felt like “a risk and a gamble,” she said, but it was one that paid off. Bode said she is now excited to see more new businesses opening their doors.
“There’s so much going on in New Kensington you could almost plan a day trip,” she said.
Amber Wilson, of New Kensington, sold herbs and herbal teas from her new online company Her Herbs Heal, which she launched about a year ago. Saturday’s event marked its first community market.
“I’m so glad I did it,” she said. “Everyone has been super friendly. Everyone is super supportive.”
Wilson said she saw about 35 customers early in the Saturday afternoon and made more than enough to recoup the $35 fee to set up a table. For Wilson, it was an encouraging sign to see people supporting small businesses like hers — especially after so many struggled through the pandemic and its restrictions.
“This is the year of the small business,” Wilson said. “This is a good opportunity to see small businesses bounce back.”
Other vendors in the garden market sold everything from plants to pastries.
Delilah Miller of Bellevue sold jelly and jam. Formerly Amish, she uses Amish techniques for making jelly and jam, collecting ingredients from local farms, farmers’ markets and pick-your-own places.
While Miller said she sometimes participates in larger events in the city, she said she prefers the small community markets with a stronger community atmosphere.
“It’s about connecting,” she said. “It’s about the community.”