Local businesses and vendors were on showcase at West Bank’s first gathering of pop-up shops this weekend.
The evening celebration, dubbed the “Night Market,” provided vendors the opportunity to connect with a wider audience. Vendors at the market ranged from neighborhood staples to artists. The market was hosted by the West Bank Business Association on the former site of Dania Hall, a historic cultural center that was demolished in 2000 after experiencing significant damage from fires in both 1991 and 2000.
On a usual day, the site stands mostly empty except for a mosaic pillar commemorating Dania Hall. Jamie Schumacher, president of WBBA, said the organization wanted to put the spot to use.
“Activating the space … it’s a way to boost cross-traffic [to nearby businesses],” said Schumacher. “When that space is dark or not really inviting, you don’t see that.”
Schumacher said events like the market bring traffic to the neighborhood and encourage visitors to stay after to shop.
“It gives our [resident artists] a connection point in that cross-promotion,” said Shumacher.
West Bank artist Sol Ras Assanti’s tent featured her copper-wrapped jewelry with an Afro-futuristic style. She lives just down the street, and neighbors are familiar with her work. But selling her pieces can be hard in a changing community, Assanti said.
“It’s a lot less supportive because there’s a lot more gentrification and the more gentrification that happens in our community, the harder it is for us to be together and stay connected,” said Assanti.
Although Assanti was surprised she hadn’t heard of the event until Sunday, she took the opportunity to showcase her work.
“I’m here selling ... because that’s literally the energy I woke up with this morning,” said Assanti.
Three tables to Assanti’s right sat Henry Stofferahn, an LED artist and newcomer to the pop-up scene. He also lives near the site.
Stofferahn said selling his art for the first time has been a learning experience, but he is taking his endeavors “one day at a time.”
Meanwhile, some established local businesses connected with new customers. Michelle Kwan of Keefer Court said some residents didn’t know where the restaurant was located, despite the shop’s 30-year tenure in the neighborhood.
“There’s not a lot of foot traffic [on Cedar Avenue] ... so having events like this gets our neighbors out of their homes and adventuring out onto a block or street they don’t normally walk up and down,” said Kwan.
High temperatures and a variety of overlapping events in the area dampened turnout, but Schumacher hopes the Night Market can happen annually. Depending on funding and vendor feedback, the market may pop up for another year.