Artisan market considered for Takoma Park

Vivian Hoffmann of Mount Rainier picks up greens from Twin Springs Fruit Farm at the Takoma Park farmers market recently.
Vivian Hoffmann of Mount Rainier picks up greens from Twin Springs Fruit Farm at the Takoma Park farmers market recently. (Leah L. Jones)
By Kristi Tousignant
The Gazette
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Takoma Park's artist community might have a new creative outlet come spring.

An artisan market in Takoma Park might open this year on a trial basis, just a few blocks from the city's existing farmers market. Organizers would hold the artisan market on four Sundays, one each in May, June, September and October, with an eye toward making the market a weekly event next year. It would be located at Takoma Junction, the small commercial district at the intersection of Philadelphia, Ethan Allen and Carroll avenues.

The market would have about 50 or 60 vendors selling things such as paintings, knitted scarves, handmade jewelry and hand-spun ceramics.

Although planning is in the early stages, the Takoma Junction Task Force has been in talks with the founder of a similar artisan market in Silver Spring about starting one in Takoma Park.

"Takoma Park is a community rich in the arts, and we think many people that live in the community would like to come out and exhibit," said Hannah McCann, who founded the Fenton Street Market in Silver Spring in 2009.

Takoma Junction Task Force member William Coulter said his group is trying to create a town square feel at the junction as well as direct more foot traffic to the area. Coulter approached McCann about six weeks ago with the idea to open an artisan market that would feed off the popularity of the nearby Takoma Park Farmers Market.

"I think that Hannah's done a really good job over in Silver Spring," he said. "I think that it says a lot when someone has done their homework. You can see she has done her homework, and she is really running a quality operation."

When McCann and her fellow organizers started the Fenton Street Market, McCann said they faced a similar situation to the one in Takoma Park. They set up the market in Fenton Street Village, an underused commercial area, much like Takoma Junction. The Fenton Street Market is open 9 a.m to 3 p.m. Saturdays from April 30 to Nov. 12.

A study of the market and surrounding businesses by the Latino Economic Development Corporation found that local businesses in Fenton Village saw an increase in sales because of foot traffic from the Fenton Street Market last year.

The market moved to Veterans Plaza on Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring last year, because its former location in Fenton Village is being developed into a hotel, McCann said.

McCann said she expects foot traffic to increase significantly with the change in location. The market was held on Veterans Plaza for two trial dates last year and, McCann said, it saw increased traffic those days.

"It's kind of a no-brainer," McCann said. "Takoma Park has a community that is strongly committed to supporting the local economy and to traveling on foot."

Laura Barclay, a promoter for the Takoma Park Farmers Market at Carroll and Laurel avenues, said she thought an artisan market nearby would draw more people to the area, ultimately benefiting the farmers market as well. Because the farmers market does not allow artisans to join, the two markets would not be competing, she said. The farmers market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday. The plan would be to hold the artisan market at the same time.

"I would see it as something complementary," Barclay said. "In a short walk, someone could do all their marketing. You could get stuff at the farmers market and then walk down and check out the art. We need lots of reasons to bring people to Takoma Park."

After the trial dates this year, the city would evaluate the success of the market, and, if all goes well, McCann and her team would line up vendors for a weekly market in the 2012 season.

Originally from Takoma Park, McCann said she already has vendors from the city who have expressed interest in opening booths at a market in their hometown.

Nothing has been decided, but McCann has drafted a proposal and said she will review it with a subcommittee in the task force in the coming weeks. After the subcommittee reviews and revises the proposal, it will go before the entire task force.

Coulter said the group hopes to submit the proposal to the City Council by the end of the month.

"This is the discovery phase," he said. "There is a desire on both our parts to make this happen."

Coulter said the new market could help open a new chapter for Takoma Junction. The junction is considered to be a historic area but has struggled economically. The task force was established to improve car and pedestrian traffic to the area, revitalize the businesses and improve the area's quality of life.

"We are trying to bring some life back," he said.

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