Area Maker Markets & Fleas Adjust to Shut-Down with Rust Belt Creative Coalition

Masks by Kaitlin Juarez of MadKnits

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Cleveland summers is its multitude of outdoor vendor/maker fairs and fleas, events which offer the opportunity for shoppers to buy items directly from local and regional artisan food producer, artists, craftspeople and vintage/collectibles dealers while offering them a market for their lovingly curated stock.

Now of course the pandemic has thrown everything off. Early-season fairs have already been cancelled, while some organizers are holding out hope for later season events. The area’s oldest such fair, the Cleveland Bazaar, for instance, already has its permits for its biweekly events at Market Square Park across from the West Side Market and hopes to get the go-ahead at some point. Others are equally up in the air as to when they might be able to proceed. (The large, upscale Cleveland Flea already announced it was taking the year off for its own reasons before the pandemic hit).

In the meantime though, the event organizers of some of these markets have joined together to create the Rust Belt Creative Coalition, whose goal is “to help our talented makers, artists and small businesses in weathering the economic uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We will assist, advocate for and promote these small businesses in a variety of ways including virtual markets, cross-promotion, media outreach and working to gather vital economic data for local and regional groups providing assistance to the self-employed.”

They also tell us they’re working with local and governmental agencies to gather economic impact information that could be useful in finding ways to help the markets and their vendors survive.

Shannon Okey, founder of the Cleveland Bazaar, and Marissa McClellan of Akron’s Crafty Market, have taken the lead on the project. Other markets involved include 720 Market, Downtown Canton Flea, I Made It! Market, Handmade Toledo, Underground Crafts + Art, Night Market Cleveland, Wildflowers Armory, Wildroots, Avant-Garde Art & Craft Shows, Peninsula Flea at Heritage Farms and the Youngstown Flea.

Okey tells us, “Our first show in May is definitely gone with the extension of the stay at home order. We are currently in the process of rebuilding the Bazaar website to redirect people to individual vendor websites in a more organized way. We’re also planning virtual markets and gift boxes for Mother’s Day/graduation/Father’s Day in partnership with Crafty Mart. As for in-person events we are fortunate that our summer shows are outdoors; it makes it easier to keep appropriate distancing. We want to make sure we are adhering to best practices when and if we are allowed to do live events — wearing masks, keeping plenty of hand sanitizer on hand etc. If we’re allowed to hold events, we will make sure that we have done everything in our power to minimize risk.”

In the meantime Crafty Mart and Cleveland Bazaar have joined forces on a new project called Ohio Maker Boxes, gift-style packages that feature items such as tea, soaps, chocolates and candles to pamper yourself of someone you love. Their website is here.

You’ll find links to all the markets at the Rust Belt Creative Coalition Facebook page. Both Crafty Mart and Cleveland Bazaar have links to their vendors to their websites. Do your window shopping online!

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