Pearl Market to Reopen this Winter, Now Seeking Merchants

The Winter Pearl Market returns in November and its organizers are looking for vendors.

Last year, the first-ever Winter Market featured 27 vendors and a Holiday Marketplace for those who could not be accommodated at its 20 E. Broad St. venue.

“We are very close to finalizing our location this year and hope to be able to accommodate as many vendors who wish to participate as possible,” says Adam Schroeder, the market’s manager.

To be eligible for participation, growers and farmers must produce 100 percent of what they sell, prove they carry a minimum $1 million insurance policy, and have an Ohio Vendor’s License.

They also must provide extra displays and signage if needed, operate during scheduled market hours, accept all market currency, and provide a farm tour to market staff prior to their first day of business.

Other vendors are not obligated to give a tour or carry insurance, but they must submit weekly sales reports (which are kept confidential.)

“Although we are also operating on a two year grant from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Promotion Program, this year being the second, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of customers and returning vendors that have asked throughout the season about the Winter Market, and where and when it will be held this year,” Schroeder says.

His employer, the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, provides financing as well.

“November and December were great for us last year,” he notes. “Although January and February were a little slower than we expected, obviously our vendors and customers have seen the value in having the Winter Market and are looking forward to it again this season.”

The market fee for growers, farmers and merchants is $60 per month for two days per week or a seasonal fee of $220; or they can opt to pay $50 per month for one day per week or a $190 seasonal rate.

Customers will find a mixture of  items available at the Summer Pearl Market and items unique to the Winter Market.

“Last year during the Winter Market, we had cauliflower, broccoli, frozen pork, beef, chicken, bison, eggs, potatoes, canned goods, garlic, tomatoes, baked goods, bread, sweaters, dog accessories, fragrances, jams and jellies, holiday décor, jewelry, ceramics, photography, art, and many other products,” Schroeder says.

“Since we require that our farmers only sell what they grow, you’ll only find produce that can be grown in Ohio during November through January,” he continues. “Some of our farmers have invested in winter greenhouses and in hydroponics that allow them to offer items, like tomatoes and lettuces, deeper into the season.”

Over the years, Pearl Market has acted as a stepping stone for small businesses looking to grow.

“Both the Summer and Winter Pearl Market can really help home-based businesses test out the downtown market for a very small investment,” Schroeder says. “During the summer, rent works out to about $12 a day and about $8 a day during the winter. You won’t be able to find downtown retail space for that inexpensive anywhere else.

“We also provide some advertising and promotion cost as part of their rent. Downtown customers want to spend money and to keep their money local. We’re trying to help provide the opportunity for them to do so.”

Several Pearl Market vendors who have storefronts throughout Central Ohio have used the market as a cost-effective way to obtain a second location, Schroeder says. Additionally, a handful of Pearl Market vendors have moved to retail spaces of their own in downtown Columbus and other cities in the region.

“Kimberly Jones at Take Ten Body Therapy started in the Market. With the extra income that the Market provided, she was able to, first, open a larger office and then eventually open a storefront on High Street,” he says. “Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties used the Market as a test market before deciding to open their second retail location on Gay Street.”

With this year’s Winter Market, the Capital Crossroads SID hopes to accomplish quite a few goals.

“We hope that the Winter Pearl Market, gives Ohio’s farmers an opportunity to extend their growing season,” Schroeder says. “Farmers will not plant produce to harvest unless they know that they are going to have an outlet to sell it at. We hope to continue to provide some more ‘retail therapy’ to downtown’s workforce, residents, and visitors.

“We hope that some of our merchants will see downtown as a viable option for their business. We hope that some property owners will see that small −500 to 1,000 square foot− retail spaces might be a good fit for some of their vacant spaces, leading to redevelopment and new leases for small retailers.”

For more information about Pearl Market, visit DowntownColumbus.com/PearlMarket. If your business is interested in participating, you can download the 2010 – 2011 Winter Farmer Application Packet HERE (PDF) or Winter Merchant Application Packet HERE (PDF).