From the moment you cross the threshold into 279 Front Street, you know it’s going to be a unique retail experience. Rather than a single store owner, you are at once greeted by a number of smiling faces, each behind a table of their own wares. Steps away from Bourbon & Bean, the Artisan Collective Market has brought the outdoor market experience into a permanent indoor space.
The exposed brick and long footprint, hallmarks of many spaces in downtown Belleville, beg you to come inside and browse the vendors. In contrast to the loud, Top 40-style playlists* that typically dominate the airwaves of box stores, the friendly chatter of conversation among the artisans creates most of the background noise.
*Author’s note: For the sake of transparency, I’ll admit that I have been known to lip sync to country music between the bookshelves of one particular box store.
The Artisan Collective Market brings together creative minds working in any number of mediums: food and beverage, jewellery, clothing, print cards and felted animals are just the beginning.
The real magic is that this particular spot is like its own mini ecosystem. The camaraderie that exists between vendors is tangible: while visiting one table, that artist is undoubtedly speaking highly of the products at the one adjacent. It’s the truest embodiment of ‘community over competition’.
The collective model tackles one of the most prohibitive costs for small business owners: space. Many of the artisans here participate in outdoor markets, but Ontario’s seasonality makes that untenable for much of the year. Joel Frijters, one of four co-founders of the market, says the response for the indoor space was very enthusiastic.
“We put word out that we were going to do an indoor farmers’ market, and within days we had people with all different stories, different reasons why they had to be inside,” said Joel. These stories are what draw you in to each vendor, fostering a connection between the customer and artist/artisan that lingers as you sip your kombucha or wear your new earrings the next day.
The cost of a table ($20/day) creates a lower barrier for entry to help small makers get established in their business. Joel envisions the market as a stepping stone, not the final stop, for these entrepreneurs: “My hope… is that people outgrow the space–that their business becomes too big, that this isn’t the right size for them anymore.”
The market is continually evolving, with new vendors applying regularly and an ever-changing array of products. Options to immerse yourself in the making of these creations exist, too: learn how to knit, make aromatic spice pastes, felted animals and buttons at the market’s workshops. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for event updates.
Has this sparked your entrepreneurial drive? Interested makers, creators, artists and artisans can get in touch with Joel at [email protected]