A crowd of shoppers milled about the neatly stocked tables at the Raleigh Makers Market in early March, browsing handmade jewelry and bags as music floated through the air. It was the season opener for the Cameron Village-based pop-up market, one of many such markets around the Triangle.
Named for their tendency to appear, draw crowds and disappear quickly, pop-up markets are not a new concept, but they have risen in popularity over the past few years, particularly in Raleigh and Durham.
These one-day shopping experiences are planned and set up in an available space – often outside, in parking lots of cooperating small businesses. Raleigh Makers Market, which appears on the first Saturday of every month, sets up in a Cameron Village breezeway between Benelux Coffee and Faire.
Like flea markets, pop-up markets let shoppers browse items in a gallery-like setting, but the merchandise usually consists of specialty or handmade items from local artists, crafters and designers.
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“Pop-up markets have created a really exciting concept for shoppers,” said Krista Anne Nordgren of The Makery, a Durham creative space that sponsors local artists and hosts pop-up shops throughout the year. “It’s exciting because it’s fleeting merchandise, and it is one of a kind.”
Tracey Johnson helped start Raleigh’s Handmade Market in 2004. It’s a group effort by 5 local artists known as The Handmaidens, who also run Urban Vintage, a downtown Raleigh market that is themed around antiques and vintage finds. Thousands of people pass through their markets every month, and Johnson says they have learned along the way what appeals to shoppers.
“Due to the economy, (makers) have found their passion and have tried to make a career of it – and it’s working,” said Johnson. “Pop-up markets have a different shopping feel than the mall, and the market is always evolving, so you never know what the next one will hold.”
Johnson, along with Cynthia Deis, the former owner of the Glenwood South store Ornamenta, are revamping a popular market formerly known as Pop-up Sunday. The new version will be called Pop-up Raleigh. Johnson says the market, entering its fourth year, has grown faster than expected. Pop-up Raleigh will take place at Trophy Brewing & Taproom on Maywood Avenue, which will provide plenty of space for vendors and crowds. Their first market of the year is April 16.
Shop and mingle
Pop-up markets in the Triangle host vendors who offer goods like handcrafted jewelry, ceramics, clothing, soaps and novelty items. At a monthly pop-up market last year, Sola Coffee in north Raleigh even had a poet who wrote free poems for guests.
In addition to being fun places for shoppers, pop-up markets create a great environment for local creatives to mingle and network.
“It is so nice meeting other makers and to have a support group. I feel like we are creating a culture more than just a market to sell our merchandise,” said Adrienne Overstreet of the handmade accessories business Feathered Sparrow, a five-year veteran of local pop-up markets.
Many vendors at these events have an established online presence on sites like Esty or Shopify, but some report having more success at the markets than online. The market atmosphere lets shoppers meet the makers and learn about the person behind the brand.
Morgan Grimm of Grimm Vintage, who also runs the popular Durham Patchwork Market, sees it happen.
“You can go to Target and buy a mug,” Grimm said, “or you can go to our market and buy a uniquely crafted mug, learn about what clay was used to make that mug and the process behind the final product.”
The first pop-up markets of the year are just starting, so there’s a whole shopping season ahead (many outdoor markets take the winter months off). The best way to learn about pop-up markets is to keep an eye on their social media channels, where they announce their events. Instagram is a great way to keep track.
Here are some popular pop-up markets and businesses to start following, and build your list from there:
Raleigh Makers Market
Durham Patchwork Market
The Handmaidens (Urban Vintage and Handmade Market)
Edge of Urge
Downtown Cary Food and Flea