Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer
Every Saturday morning until late November, residents and visitors passing by the Denton County Historical Park will be greeted with the scent of freshly baked scones, the sound of indie-folk music and a sense of kinship at the Denton Community Market.
Since its launch six years ago, the market has been a city staple, inviting artists, businesses and producers around Denton to participate in an event celebrating locally-made products from ground coffee to bath soaps.
Founder and vendor coordinator Kati Trice said she saw a need for the market in 2009 when Denton had only a small farmer’s market for local vendors to sell their products.
Harvest House sells fresh strawberries and preserves in its tent on opening day of the Community Market on Saturday. Photo by Meagan Sullivan – Staff Photographer
“We did not have a community event that brought together all of these different entrepreneurs in one space that felt like a festival,” she said. “That was really what I wanted to create – something that was engaging for the neighbors that came out.”
With less than 20 producers in 2010, the market opened its 2015 season with nearly 100 vendors, farmers, cottage food businesses and food trucks – at least 60 returning from last year and 30 newcomers. About 4,000 to 5,000 visitors attended the market’s opening day, according to its Facebook page.
Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau vice president Kim Phillips said the market is unique from other city events because it focuses on makers who create their products within 100 miles of Denton.
“I would say that of all the special events in our city, they are the only ones that really hone in on that,” she said. “If you want to shop local, Community Market is a great place to kind of be indoctrinated into where you find true local.”
Keeping it local
Trice, who accepts applications from vendors looking to participate at the market, said the producers are divided into six categories: artists and craftspersons; grower-producers or farmers; cottage food vendors, who require a valid Texas Food Handler Certificate to sell their homemade goods; onsite and prepared food businesses; community groups, such as non-profit organizations; and a vintage trailer.
‘Fibers senior Lindsay Tucker, right, throws a blank T-shirt to printmaking senior Colton Robertson, middle, at the Pan Ector booth on Saturday. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor
“The market is really a celebration of the community spirit we have here in Denton and this collection of entrepreneurs who are doing what they love,” Trice said. “It is just filled with passionate people.”
One of these people is Kimberly Bien, owner of body care company Salted Sanctuary that sells its products at the DIME Store and A Creative Art Studio.
Bien said she started participating when her kids asked her about the market four years ago and has seen increasing demand for her handmade soaps, body scrubs and bath salts, among other items.
“It gives a place for small local businesses to grow,” she said. “It is also a wonderful place for the community to gather to enjoy local produce, local musicians, artisans and enjoy being together outside.”
Tierra Verde Farm owner Ron Plis, who primarily sells free-range chicken eggs and canned vegetables as a cottage food vendor, said he joined the market in 2012 when he had an excess of eggs and needed an outlet. His daughter also began making cheddar bacon scones, which easily became a favorite among market visitors last year, Trice said.
“Initially it was like we wanted to sell our products, but now it’s kind of like a family where you get to know people and everybody seems to be real nice,” Plis said. “I really enjoy the camaraderie with the other vendors and the customers.”
Music and more
Despite the emphasis on vendors, the market is not all economic in nature.
With arts and crafts, kids’ activities and open green space for picnicking, the market has traditionally attracted customers across different demographics, particularly those who are looking to spend time with family and friends outdoors.
With a stage set up in the open space, the market also features the musical stylings of local entertainers.
CEO and founder of DentonRadio.com Jake Laughlin, one of two performance coordinators for the market, said the goal for this year’s music selection is to offer as much variety in genre as possible.
John Thomas sharpens a pocketknife on a set of five grinding wheels. This is name’s first time sharpening knifes at the community market, but second year selling honey with his family. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor
Performers include The Velvet Army, an all-female pop-rock band, and The Holophonics, a ska-reggae cover band.
“It’s pretty eclectic,” Laughlin said. “We’ve got everything from country bands to pop bands and rock bands to everything else in between.”
In past years, the market would have musicians performing on select weekends, but this time, Laughlin said the performances happen consistently throughout each open day and have become more like concerts with customers and visitors staying longer to listen to the local talent.
However, just like the vendors, all musicians must be from the Denton area to perform at the event.
“It’s kind of a fun mix to be able to get some local Denton music along with some local Denton makers, so everything screams Denton at the top of its lungs,” Laughlin said.
Recently, the market received a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which it used to expand the green space to 1.6 acres, increase outdoor seating to accommodate 120 people and double marketing efforts to recruit new farmers and allow for training.
Another source of funding was the market’s first Denton Roller Disco last month where participants wore their roller skates to a disco party at the Lone Star Indoor Sports Center. Trice said it was so successful – raising about $2,000 for the market – that she plans on hosting it again next year.
Phillips said these accomplishments have helped the market become a seasonal attraction in the community, allowing other business owners or organizers to incorporate the market’s ideas into their activities.
“Besides just being a fantastic experience for visitors and locals alike, [the Community Market has] become a place for local creatives to take the risk and put their creations out there and see how it flies,” she said. “I think it’s giving people the confidence to not just create, but also create and share.”
Featured Image: Onions and turnips sit on a table under the Harvest House tent for opening weekend of the Community Market. Photo by Meagan Sullivan – Staff Photographer