Community markets support small businesses and help revitalize New Kensington

Two community markets in New Kensington were held less than a block away, at Voodoo Brewing and Knead Community Cafe, on Saturday giving local vendors a chance to showcase their wares and attract new customers.

Michelle Thom, owner of Voodoo Brewing, and Jamie Parker, owner of a New Kensington bakery called Sweet Alchemy, have teamed up to headline the Voodoo Brewing event.

Dubbed Fairies, Flowers and Fun: A Celebration of Spring, their event drew about 20 small-business vendors, selling everything from homemade crafts to personalized drinking glasses, to the lawn outside the brewery.

The idea was to host a family event to welcome spring, support small businesses and renew the downtown New Kensington area, Thom said.

The duo has hosted four previous community markets, Parker said, and plans to have another free event on Saturday, July 9, on Fifth Avenue, featuring local restaurants and alcohol vendors, as well as fire dancers and performers.

“If people come and have fun, that’s a win for us,” Parker said. “We want people to see that positive things are happening in this community.”

For Melissa Jackson, a local photographer who set up a photo tent on Saturday, the most exciting part of the market was that it played a role in renovating her hometown of New Kensington.

“It’s exciting,” she said of what she sees as a recent revitalization of the area. “It’s inspiring, motivating. I want to be a part of that.”

Jackson operates a photography business in downtown New Kensington that focuses on “women’s empowerment.” She offers photo shoots for young girls to dress up as princesses or fairies. Her goal, she said, is to help people reconnect with themselves, just as the goal of these community markets is to help people reconnect with their community.

He said he was hopeful that the influx of small businesses in the area and the rise of community events and markets will draw people to New Kensington and allow people who live there to become more involved in a community that has recently had a bad time. reputation for some people.

“You’d be surprised what’s going on down here,” he said. “It’s the new New Kensington.”

Pamela Williams, a New Kensington firefighter who was helping out at the market, said she is once again proud to live in New Kensington.

“There’s a lot more going on in the community,” he said. “People are getting involved.”

As people gather for events like the Saturday market, small businesses get a boost, said Megan Igo, who was manning a booth for Dear Neighbors Craft, a small business she launched in December that sells home-made woodwork.

“This draws the community. It makes our name known,” she said. “We have been inundated with invitations [to community markets]. More things like this help the community to be better.”

Myriah McKenzie of Springdale reviewed the positions with Chrissy Dibas of Lower Burrell on Saturday afternoon. McKenzie said that she wanted to visit some of the small local businesses in the area and decided to stop by the market as well.

“I like to support small businesses,” he said. “I just like to support local people instead of Amazon and big corporations.”

“It just looks better when things are made by hand,” Dibas added.

Meanwhile at Knead Cafe

Nearby, the Knead Community Cafe hosted its Mother Nature’s Garden Market, which featured local vendors selling natural, plant-based products.

The pay-what-you-can cafe hosted a similar event under a different name last year, and hopes to make it an annual tradition, said co-founder Mary Bode. This year, the event drew about 15 local vendors and several hundred people, she said.

“This market is a way of bringing new people to the New Kensington region,” Bode said, adding that she too feels the area is reinventing itself.

When the cafe opened about six years ago, he said, it was the only business on the block. Opening the cafe there felt like “a risk and a gamble,” she said, but it paid off. Bode said she is now excited to see more new businesses open their doors.

“There’s so much going on in New Kensington that you could almost plan a little day trip,” he said.

Amber Wilson of New Kensington was selling herbs and herbal teas from her new online business Her Herbs Heal, which she launched about a year ago. Saturday’s event marked her first community market.

“I’m so happy I did it,” he said. “Everyone has been super nice. Everyone is super supportive.”

Wilson said he had seen about 35 customers by early Saturday afternoon and made more than enough to recoup the $35 fee to set up a table. For Wilson, it was an encouraging sign to see people supporting small businesses like his, especially after so many struggled through the pandemic and related restrictions.

“This is the year of small business,” Wilson said. “This is a good opportunity to see how small businesses recover.”

Other vendors at the garden market were selling everything from plants to baked goods.

Delilah Miller of Bellevue sold jellies and jams. A former Amish, she uses Amish techniques to make jellies and jams, and she gathers ingredients from local farms, farmers’ markets and drive-thru spots.

Although Miller said she sometimes participates in larger events around town, she said she prefers the smaller community markets that have a stronger community vibe.

“It’s about connecting,” he said. “It’s about the community.”

Julia Felton is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Julia can be reached at 724-226-7724, or via Twitter .

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