Limited hours, traffic and lack of parking are deterrents for shoppers visiting galleries and local businesses in the Short North, a problem the Moonlight Market aims to eliminate.
The monthly street festival began as a way to attract more traffic and retail shoppers downtown, Walker Evans, co-founder of the nonprofit Gay Street Collaborative, said.
“The problem kind of became a chicken-and-egg situation: People didn’t come down because the businesses didn’t stay open late, but the businesses didn’t stay open late because people weren’t coming downtown,” Evans said. “So we wanted to wedge something in there to make a change.”
The market, which was created by the GSC seven years ago, will showcase more than 50 small businesses, restaurants and startups lining the sidewalks of Gay Street. The event is held every second Saturday of the month from April through October.
Event Coordinator Heather Yost said the market serves as a good opportunity for small businesses to “get their feet wet” and is an ideal place for students or artists just starting out to develop an audience in the Columbus community. Red Giraffe Designs, for example, started as a street vendor at the Moonlight Market and now has a brick-and-mortar storefront in the Short North.
“I think it’s cool that some of the vendors that have come in the past have gone on to develop their own company and have expanded,” Yost said. “It’s nice that that opportunity exists and that we can help offer it.”
Visitors will find a wide array of goods, ranging from handmade soaps to watercolor paintings to Ohio State gear throughout the market and can sample food from nearby restaurants as they browse.
“This event is a fun date night option and can get students off campus for a minute,” Evans said. “Plus it’s only a short, free bus ride away and is a really interesting way to see more of what your city is all about.”
To maintain the small-business feel of the market, there is an online application for vendors that serves as a vetting process, Yost said. Once approved, reserving a sidewalk space costs $40, which helps fund the GSC and other community work.
Evans said the GSC has also partnered with the Greater Columbus Arts Council to hire street performers such as musicians, jugglers and magicians at the market event, too.
“By partnering with the GCAC, we’re able to make sure performers are getting paid a fair wage for their work, because they really add to the atmosphere,” Evans said. “We can schedule them online and the GCAC will match the cost 50-50 for us.”
Following the success of the nighttime festival, the GSC expanded its initiative to include the Sunlight Market, which takes place on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is geared more toward families and “the morning brunch crowd,” Evans said.
“The Moonlight Market is more adult-centric and seems to bleed more into the nightlife crowd because there is late-night food and shopping until as late as 11:30 [p.m.] sometimes,” he said. “The Sunlight Market definitely has more families and it is a little smaller.”
The success of both markets can be attributed to a diverse product selection and the casual, organic quality of the event, as it does not feel too controlled or overwhelmed with programming, Evans said.
“The Moonlight Market is definitely unique in that it is a very open-air, open-access type of event,” Evans said. “It really speaks to the city’s desire to nurture small businesses, startups, and the artistic community.”
The outdoor street festival will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. on Gay Street between North High and Third Street.