Before the pandemic, Artisan Locale would host four or five markets a year with talented creatives across our fair city, from jewelers to woodworkers to painters to fabric artists to plant pushers. While Artisan Locale founder Ashley Arnold held a virtual market on Instagram back in March, she knew sustaining this kind of presence for markets wouldn’t be viable long-term. She and one of her makers, Amanda Moore from The Misplaced Cactus, teamed up to brainstorm new ideas on how to move forward bringing together makers and consumers during a pandemic.
“Amanda and I have known each other since we both started out on our own ventures and have always been a sounding board for one another,” Arnold says. “It has been great to combine forces, using each of our strengths.”
While they envision their partnership eventually growing into large-scale markets, featuring local vendors, as well as regional and out-of-state ones, for now, they’ve landed on hosting something smaller. The Cargo Crawl, an in-person, socially distanced market, will be held August 1, noon – 4 p.m. It will feature 17 vendors and seven businesses within the Cargo District. The $5 ticketed event went live last week on The Misplaced Cactus’ website and sold out in only three days.
“We stopped ticket sales at 150 people,” Arnold says.
Tickets have helped the planners track the number of attendees and thus monitor traffic closely, in order to keep within NC state mandates during phase two of operations for businesses under COVID-19. “[It allows] us control of the total number of participants,” Arnold says. “Our hope is to achieve social distancing while still maintaining Artisan Locale’s market feel.”
Ticket-holders will receive discounts at Cargo District businesses, including The Plant Outpost (20%), Missio (20%), Half United (15%) and Coworx (day pass for $5), plus on drinks and food within the neighborhood, including from Outpost Coffee Co. (25%) and the Cargo District’s newest eatery, Mess Hall (20%). “They are all such a supportive community to each other and local makers, so it just made sense to include them along with vendors in this lineup,” Arnold says.
Participants can check-in anytime during the event, and they will receive a map to indicate where all vendors are located around the Cargo District. Eight will set up in Coworx (1608 Queen Street) and another nine across the street, in the alley between Half United and The Plant Outpost.
“We hope participants will stick to the trail, which in turn will help keep groups spread out,” Arnold details.
All crawl participants will receive a “Cargo Card” that will need to be stamped at each check-in point. The card will need to be shown to receive discount incentives. While bringing a fun event back to the area is a highlight of the crawl, the main purpose is to provide support to artists, makers and business owners who have lost revenue from the shutdown.
“To this day our wholesale business is still down by 60%,” says Half United founder Carmin Black, “which has been hard on us as a brand that had high-growth hopes and strong sales projections in place for 2020.”
Half United is constructed on a charitable business model, wherein half of all sales go toward fighting hunger in poverty-stricken nations. “It’s been extremely hard knowing we cannot fulfill our mission as we would like because our giving model is based on customer purchases,” Black adds. “However, the silver lining is, like many businesses, this shutdown and slow down in sales has forced us to realign priorities, focus on selling on online, and we are now conducting a branding overhaul that we’ve needed for some time.”
Vendor Sara Sifre of Bones Soap Co. also faced dire straits when the market circuit vanished the first half of the year because of COVID. She planned on attending two or three markets every month through spring and fall to sell her line of environmentally friendly skincare products and apparel.
“The pandemic sure threw a wrench in that,” Sifre says. “Next year will be a fresh start and hopefully we can resume a regular schedule. This has been a test of our resilience and ability to roll with the punches.”
The young company has focused most of its business online, including on its website, Instagram and Amazon Handmade. The Cargo Crawl will allow them face-to-face time with customers to sell bar soaps and lip balms, plus moisturized hand sanitizers. Prices will range from $3 to $18.
The pandemic has given local artist Heather Divoky the gift of time to work on projects she hadn’t been able to get to in the past. Her output has been creatively inspiring, as she has a new aerial series and Tarot deck. She also has been lucky to receive funding to further pursue her art as a career.
“I recently won the RAGP grant, which in a normal year would’ve allowed me to attend my first residency,” Divoky says. “But since all of them were canceled, I’ve been able to pivot the grant to a COVID 19 residency. It’s really been a gift.”
Divoky had participated in only five markets before March’s stay-at-home orders went into effect. The camaraderie shared at many of these events always left her fulfilled. “I miss interacting with people and seeing what other artisans are up to,” Divoky says.
At the crawl, she will be selling illustrated paper earrings, as well as various artworks of deserts, reclining women, plants and peaches. “They are all marker and ink on paper and will be $20,” she details. “I’ll also have a new banner made of moons with gold leaf embellishing, prints, postcard bundles of a Tarot series I’m doing, and a few small originals.”
Other participating vendors in the Cargo Crawl will be Earth and Empathy Ceramics, Tribe of the Infinite, Andrea Watson Designs, Willow Woman Creations, Kelsey Howard Art, Stained and Confused, Dare to Dream, Pufferfish Print Shop, Mackacraft, Sun and Shine Vintage, The Rooted One, Olive Designs, Handwriting by Hannah and Weekend Gypsy. After meandering through each vendor, participants are encouraged to head over to End of Days Distillery (1815 Castle St.) to enjoy a special Cargo Crawl cocktail.
“We [look forward] to supporting the creators and small business owners while also offering a safe shopping experience for both them and the consumer,” Arnold adds.