By Charleen Artese and Jenny Vickers
As we head into our last weekend at the Asbury Park Bazaar, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on what it means to shop small and buy local, not only this holiday season, but year round. We were lucky enough to catch up with a few of our vendors to find out what it means to them.
Now in its third year, the Asbury Park Bazaar is a seasonal event that features a curated roster of local and regional vendors selling goods and products that are handmade, vintage, recycled/upcycled, produced locally and/or are ethically-sourced.
"Besides being a super fun and less crowded place to shop than the malls or big department stores, shopping at the Bazaar helps keep the small business community alive," said Heidi Dametz of Aha Crafted, who hails from NY State but has lived at the Jersey Shore for the last 20 years. "These days almost every industry is controlled by huge corporate conglomerates. When you buy from small businesses you are helping the people directly running the business care for their families."
This year, the Asbury Park Bazaar partnered with the Market at Fifth Avenue to bring shoppers a wide array of vendors, artists and local pop up shops selling small batch, handmade products that you can't find at the mall.
"The love and the passion that goes into a small business and an independent business is far different than a big box store," said Amanda DiRobella, who runs The Market at Fifth and Composite Shop. "When you support a small business, you are enabling a family to live and survive in your community. It's much more personal. People are changing the way they see the holiday season and the way they buy and consume."
The bazaar takes place inside the Grand Arcade of Convention Hall, a beautiful historic beachfront structure which boasts impeccable decor and lighting during the holiday season, including a giant tree where event-goers can take photos with Santa and drop off toys and coats for the Asbury Park Toy Drive.
"As a vendor and a shopper, I have had such an amazing experience at the bazaar," said Karisa Perrone of Velvet and Slate. "As a vendor, I feel like I am a part of an amazing movement that has infinite possibilities and am honored to be part of this crazy, talented group. As a shopper, I am constantly excited to see what each maker has up their sleeves and I know I'm always going to leave with something that I, or a loved one, will treasure for a long time to come."
According to Kate Devine of Wild Vine Vintage, shopping small enables business owners to build relationships, share ideas, and bring incredible concepts and events to the community, just like what is happening right now in Asbury Park.
"Shopping small means supporting individuals who pour their hearts into their business and product," said Devine. "Shopping small upholds the character of a town. The small business owners I know work with integrity and truly care about their customers. Despite being the little guys, they make a habit of giving back to the community."
The bazaar is about much more than shopping. It is designed to be an experience and and an adventure. Event-goers can listen to live music, participate in kids crafts, drink delicious Glühwein (traditional spiced German wine that you find at European holiday markets), as well as enjoy all of the great year-round Grand Arcade businesses such as The Anchor's Bend, Criterion Chocolates, Shelter Home, and the new Asbury Oyster Bar.
"It's way more pleasant to stroll around Convention Hall with a warm beverage in one hand, your dog's leash in the other, while greeting neighbors, familiar vendors and friends, than battling annonymous crowds at a mall or outlet store where every item is mass-produced through means we can't be sure are fair to people and the environment," said Devine.
Some vendors have even turned their love for their local community into an artform. Anchored in NJ, based out of South River NJ, consists of owners Stefanie Flodmand, Harlee Olsen, and Laurie Pasternak, who handmake coastal art and decor, from upcycled and reclaimed wood, inspired by their love of the Garden State.
"The Asbury Park Bazaar is a market that welcomes all walks of life and all forms of art," said Stefanie Flodmand of Anchored in NJ. "You can get a delicious treat or a beautiful piece of art for your wall. There is a little something for everyone and the support is unmatched. As a shopper your options are not only endless but also unique. Vendors enjoy another level of the experience as we start as vendors and leave as friends."
"Shopping small means supporting someone's dream," said Noelle Puzino, owner of Brick, New Jersey-based jewelry company Ophelia Moon. "I find myself sometimes working 24/7 on my jewelry so to have someone purchase from me means the entire world to me."
Puzino says that shopping at the bazaar is also a fun and unique shopping experience.
"Where else can you find such different and unique gifts made by talented folks under one roof?"
And it isn't just local vendors under one roof - the bazaar features vendors from across the region including Jersey City, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and as far away as Virginia.
"It's our very first time at the Asbury Park Bazaar and we like it a lot," said Tina Plavinskas of Jersey City-based oh honey. "I love that it is indoors and the building is beautiful. The people are really nice here too."
Trina got into beekeeping with her husband (and beekeeper) Darius Plavinskas because they wanted to do something good for the environment.
"We never thought that we would actually sell the honey," said Plavinskas. "All of our honey is raw, unfiltered and we don't use any chemicals on the bees. My husband also breeds his own queens. So the beeswax is completely pure and so I started making lip balms, healing creams and ointments and things from beeswax."
Before making her way to the bazaar, Amanda Vega of KALEIDOS, an online shop based in Virginia, took part in a pop up event at The Market at Fifth Avenue over the summer.
"Amanda from the Market at Fifth encouraged me to do the bazaar," said Vegas. "Everyone here has been really responsive and sweet and taking a lot of interest, it's a lot of fun."
"Shopping small means supporting the creative community," said Vega "I think it's stimulating to our economy and I think, most importantly, for me because I am a creative as well. I am a musician, so I think shopping small is having a one-on-one connection with who you are buying from and being more intentional with where you buy."
Hailing from Philadelphia, Wanderlove Press sells handlettered and handmade paper goods including stationary, greeting cards, and art prints.
"Shopping small means supporting a local community" said Jost. "The money is going directly to people's families and their homes. It's really helping an individual or small community of people."
We hope to see you this weekend for our last installment of the Asbury Park Bazaar before we come back next Spring! What's even better is that many of our vendors have online stores or shops located in the community, so be sure to support them year round!
For more information, visit www.asburyparkbazaar.com