Only in Akron | ‘My tale of fail’ and the rise of Akron Farm & Flea

Akronites don’t quit. They just find other Akronites to help out.

by Liz Tyran

This is my tale of fail.

Last year, I wanted to start a downtown flea market. So I did. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone so I recruited the help of a man named J. Phillip Hudson who had co-created Crafty Mart. Together, we began to sift through ideas and akron farm and flea2started getting the word out. We named it Akron Farm & Flea and began looking for vendors.

There wasn’t much time. In fact, it was already spring when we decided to make it happen, and I was just too anxious to wait a whole year longer when I’d already spent the whole PAST year wanting to do this. The Facebook page got so many likes right off the bat that we knew this was something people wanted to see happen. “So cool,” I thought, “let’s roll.”

July 12, 2014 market day.

I woke up, looked out my apartment window and saw J in the parking lot counting out his footsteps as he lined up one foot in front of the other to mark off the vendors’ spaces. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the vendors who signed up actually showed up, lesson learned: collect vendors fees up front.

But those who came were awesome. They were on-time and totally prepared to get their sell on. Each one made their space look like its own little store. No matter what they were offering, it was quality and it looked great. Now we just had to wait for the people to come, because, well, we had built it, right? …So they were coming, right? Ya… um, not so much. It was quiets-ville. Not that we didn’t get any traffic, but certainly not the turnout we’d hoped for. …Sweet.

Where did we go wrong? We’d created some buzz on social media, we had one of the area’s best designers, Andy Taray, create a logo for us and I know the vendors had to be marketing on their end because why wouldn’t they? Hmm, I guess I’ll just try twice as hard next week. And three times as hard the week after that when the result ends up being pretty much the same. So, ya. I’ll just keep going like a farmers’ market chicken with its head cut off till we get some results.

In addition to helping J field and answer e-mails to get more vendors signed up and keeping up with promoting on social media and booking musicians to come out and play, I was literally passing out cards and flyers around town, putting them on people’s cars (you’re welcome, and I’m sorry)—AND going to local farmers’ markets myself to buy produce because we hadn’t started early enough in the season to book any farmers so I was simply buying their goods outright and representing them at our market. My dad grows a number of large gardens almost big enough to be called small farms on his property in Medina so you better believe I was putting “farmer Larry’s” beautiful organic veggies out there.

Fresh and local greens (PHOTO: Shane Wynn)
Fresh and local greens (PHOTO: Shane Wynn)

Oh, and then there was the fact that I wanted to help make the whole thing worth the vendors’ time so I made sure I bought something at every market whether it was used children’s books, jars of pie filling, or some crazy awesome Rachel Jernigen paintings. All things I put to good use of course either as gifts or as ingredients for the shop. And at least I could use the extra produce in the shop too. Great soups did indeed follow.

What was the point of all this? Why had I conceived this idea and why was I creating so much extra work as well as sinking so much time and money into it to make it happen?

They are the same answers that hold true today. I wanted to create a reason for people to come downtown during the day on the weekends, or something supplemental to enhance their day, if they happened to be across the street at the museum or in the area for another event. That was answer #1. Answer #2 was that we are positioned in this incredible setting, perfect for indoor and outdoor events called the historic arts district. I look around and I see an area that just lends itself to a market like this and I want to share it with everyone.

So why hadn’t it worked? Well, we know we rushed it. We know we started too late in the season to get farmers and other vendors lined up for the season. And one more way we were overly ambitious is we thought that hosting it every Saturday would work. Like most good things, we needed to test the waters and find these things out, and like most good things, we realized it needed to grow over time.

Enter one Brit Cherek, reigning queen of Crafty Mart and all that is organized and good. While I didn’t think I’d have the energy or resources to continue with the market this year, this local heroine has swooped in and volunteered to save the day. …or, at least, the first Saturdays of each month starting May 2.

Yes, I’m happy to say the downtown Akron Farm and Flea will start up again next month (I hear applause in my head—“Thank you, we’re excited too.”) and there are already over 700 people signed up to attend on the event page on Facebook. And because the planning started MONTHS ago there is already a plethora of vendors lined up and ready to go. Some things are just meant to be.

Perhaps my tale of fail shall turn to a tale of prevail thanks to a little help from my friend—okay, a lot of help.

Follow the Akron Farm & Flea Market on Facebook for more information on vending and attending.