The SouthCoast Open Air Market comes to New Bedford this summer! Dan Moriarty sat down with Allison Faunce, the market’s founder, to talk about how the market came to be, and what patrons can look forward to finding there. (Spoiler: There’s Alpacas!)
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My husband and I are originally from the Philly area. We both went to art school where I double-majored in 2D Fine Art and Art Education. I was offered 2 full time teaching positions but soon after graduating my son was born. I wanted to find something I could do from home.
One afternoon my son was using a towel as a cape and pretending to be a super hero, so I made him an actual cape. Then his friends wanted ones too. I was always entrepreneurial, so I decided to start selling my capes on Etsy. Before I knew it, I had that home-based business I always wanted! I called it Little Heroes Capes and over the next decade I grew it. Around the same time we were going wholesale we moved to Massachusetts and I started working with a manufacturer in Fall River.
Where did the idea for SOAM come from?
After going into wholesale, I started to not feel as in touch with my business. Most of my sales were online and I missed actually seeing my customers. Being new to Massachusetts I started to look around for new ways to connect with customers and other creatives. I began going to open air markets in Boston and Providence and realized that at these markets, you’re around all of these creatives and artisans, but there isn’t any real connection being formed between them.
I wondered why no market was really tapping into the co-creative potential of connecting the vendors on a personal level. Soon after I noticed it was because the market managers often weren’t there. It created a huge lack of communication between us and the managers. Our voices weren’t being heard and it felt as if we were a byproduct of the market not the key to its success. This lead me to want to start my own market that would be run much more intimately!
How did you materialize the idea?
We bought a house in Somerset and I had to drive over the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge everyday to work in Fall River. Everyday I saw this big open green space that never got any use! I began to ask around about who owned the field and after some legwork we got the OK to host a market there.
Little Heroes Capes gave me credibility which I used to recruit vendors and in July 2017 we launched our first market there with 25 vendors. We didn’t know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by having around 2,000 people show up! It backed up the bridge and we ran out of parking – a great problem to have!
By the end of the season we had doubled to 50 vendors, which was amazing to me. Then, the following season we opened with 100 vendors and 16 dates!
When and where can people find your markets this year?
We will be hosting markets in both Somerset and New Bedford this year!
Somerset: Corner of Newhill and Riverside Avenue – June 1st, July 6th, August 3rd, September 7th, and October 26th.
New Bedford: Corner of Union and Purchase Streets – June 15th, July 20th, August 17th September 21st, and October 12th.
Both run 10am-3pm!
What can people expect to find at SOAM?
Alpacas! All sorts of stuff! We have artisans who specialize in woodworking, clothing and textiles, specialty foods, painting, pottery, jewelry and much more. There are farmers who sell their own produce, honeys, syrups and meats along with food trucks. We have community groups and non-profits who table there. We also have activities for kids like fort building, fairy tales, imaginative games, farm animals and pony rides with ponies dressed as unicorns! There are henna stations and pet adoption too.
A special feature we have is SOAM Kid Bizz: a program that lets young entrepreneurs and artisans get their start and connect with people who have made careers out of being creative. We also have live music. We don’t want to just be a market, we want to create an experience. We encourage collaboration between our vendors and the variety of the market is important. It creates cross pollination between people who come for the food and people who come for the art.
Anything new in the works?
Last year we had our first annual winter time show. It was at the Somerset-Berkeley Regional High School. 6,000 people showed up and it was so many people that some couldn’t even get in the door! So this year we are holding it for two nights (December 14th & 15th) at the new Swansea YMCA. We will have fire pits, s’mores, ice sculptures, fire throwers, sleigh rides, and all of our awesome vendors! We’re also hoping to start to do some pop-up events.
How can vendors get a spot?
They can go to SouthCoastOpenAirMarket.com and click the “Apply” tab. We accept applications on a rolling basis.
How can people volunteer?
We always take volunteers! We have an abundance of need. There is a lot of human power that goes into making these events happen. On the same website there is a volunteer page under the “More” tab.
Where can people find SOAM on social media?