The gray, dreary days spent inside staring at cars go by may feel endless, but they will end. In just a couple of months, the Bloomfield Saturday Market will be back in full swing.
This past year has been challenging. It feels like a cloud has been hanging over our heads the past year, especially if you’re a small business owner. It’s been hard to watch many of our beloved businesses close and see them bounce back and forth between pandemic-related guidelines they’re expected to follow with little support from the federal government.
Farmers markets have generally been seen in the past as community spaces and a place to shop local. However, this past year opened our eyes to the fact that farmers markets are often very white spaces, and the Bloomfield Saturday Market was no exception. Farmers markets are an essential business that benefit communities by providing access to fresh food, supporting small businesses and farmers, and, in Pittsburgh, supporting SNAP users with a 40% match on their shopping budget. However, these spaces often exclude BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) people, both as shoppers and business owners.
One way we’re working to create a more inclusive and comfortable market is offering two scholarships specifically to BIPOC-owned businesses who are new to the Bloomfield Saturday Market. Offered every season going forward, the scholarship program had a successful trial run at the current winter market. But simply adding BIPOC vendors doesn’t mean that a space is comfortable or even safe. Our staff and board are currently working through anti-racism and inclusion training, and we spend time at the beginning of each market training vendors on what behavior isn’t acceptable and how to handle it. We also spend time at our vendor meetings, held bi-monthly, discussing actions we can take to create a welcoming, safe space.
If you are, or know, a BIPOC-owned business who hasn’t tried a farmers market because the fees were too high or you aren’t sure if it will work for your business model, or are in another market and want to expand, we encourage you to drop us a line with questions and to apply. In 2020 the market drew an average of 1,500 people each week and vendor sales were similar to, or even higher than, their sales in 2019. Our staff have spent years learning best practices around maximizing sales with simple stall layouts and signage and we’ll help however we can. We want to support your business.
Additionally, brick and mortar businesses have also been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. If you own a business in Bloomfield, you can vend at the Bloomfield Saturday Market up to 3 times this year free of charge. The market brings lots of folks from Bloomfield out of their houses and onto our streets, increasing foot traffic in the main area of the Liberty Avenue business district, but also draws a large amount of shoppers from other neighborhoods and even outside of the city. Several Bloomfield businesses have joined us using this program over the last few years and several have become permanent vendors and many have given us feedback that some people who shop at the market do later visit their store to shop. Market shoppers are dedicated and want to support your small business.
Our application window will close on March 19. If you have any questions, please contact our Market Manager, Abi Gildea, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.681.8800 ext. 103. If you’re ready to apply today, applications are open at www.bloomfieldpgh.org.