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East End Bazaar has 'hugely successful' pilot season

Gazette file photo
Visitors peruse the produce offered by Patty Espinosa of Green Acres farm in Rock Cave.
Gazette file photo Comparsa plays for shoppers during the opening of the East End Bazaar last summer.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Once a vacant, dusty lot at the corner of Ruffner Avenue and Washington Street East, the site of the East End Bazaar has added some color and cheer to Charleston.

The East End Bazaar, a project of Charleston East End Main Street, held its grand opening last year on Sept. 15. The open-air market welcomed visitors each Saturday to view West Virginia artisans and craftspeople displaying their wares, such as paintings, clothing, jewelry, handmade crafts like soaps and baskets, photography, baked goods, pottery, hand-blown glass and more. Live music and other entertainment accompanied patrons' tours.

Market manager Ned Savage said the Bazaar's pilot season was "hugely successful", a response he wasn't sure the project would attract in the beginning.

"We expected an uphill struggle to recruit vendors at first, seeing as how we had no track record," Savage said. "What we were surprised to learn was how quickly good news travels -- the handful of pioneering vendors who took a chance with the Bazaar had a great deal of success, and soon word started to get out within the arts community and by the end of the season we had vendor applications piling in from all over the state."

Public feedback on the endeavor has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Savage. He says the Bazaar gives residents a sense of pride in their community.

"People are excited to bring friends and relatives visiting from out of town and show them, 'this is where I live. Isn't it cool?'"

Savage says local businesses are delighted with the Bazaar and most vendors will participate again next year. He says the weekly event brings more people to a part of town they otherwise might have looked over.

"Not only the businesses and artists who participate as vendors benefit from the Bazaar; neighboring businesses have all noted an up-tick in sales during market hours," he said. "And, probably more important, it has transformed a key intersection which has deserved attention for some time into a weekly destination and continues to positively change perceptions about the East End as a whole."

Though the Bazaar is open through April to October, the market held the East End Christmas Bazaar on Dec. 1. The special event featured 15 art and craft vendors, three food vendors, wreath-making workshops, a kids' craft station, carols and more. Vendors grossed a combined total of $7,500 that afternoon, according to the Bazaar's Facebook page. Savage sees the Christmas Bazaar becoming an annual tradition.

While Savage doesn't anticipate any major changes to the market come April, he said they're making a number of small additions to the space. New signage, additional seating options, a kids' play area and a Little Free Library free book exchange are among several considerations.

"We're considering raising the level of the stage to accent the role of free, local, live music. We're also hoping to offer electrical access to our vendors as well as free Wi-Fi Internet access to patrons and vendors alike," he said. "We're also still looking into having the space landscaped to some degree."

The East End Bazaar, located at the corner of Washington St., East and Ruffner Avenue, will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from April through October. Savage says though they have more than 40 registered vendors, they are always looking for more. Interested applicants should contact Ned Savage at NSavage@CharlestonEastEnd.com or 304-767-9800.

Reach Shelly Davidov at shellyd@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4882.


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