words and photos by Noor Hindi
Walking into Northside Marketplace is like receiving a sampler platter of your favorite food at your favorite restaurant. The possibilities are endless. You can grab a drink at Sure House Coffee Roasting Co, then browse Rubber City Clothing after trying out OY-L’s new hand products. Or, you can go on a bike ride with Dirty River Bicycle Works, then dive into Thailand inspired ice cream at Akron Creamery. Or . . . you get it.
Wesley Ian, founder of Akron Honey Company, is using a space in Northside Marketplace to test out men’s personal care products. Wesley’s production lab has huge windows overlooking the social lounge so that people can watch him develop his new line.
“So [Joel Testa] gives me this big, huge window which is beautiful and it’s working way better than I ever thought it would,” he says.
Wesley is just one out of forty tenants in the new space, which is having its grand opening on Friday, November 17. Joel Testa, president of Testa Companies, is calling Northside Marketplace “an urban mall” that is based on local entrepreneurs, social activity, artists and great food.
“I want people to come to Downtown Akron and shop all these local vendors and spend time in the district and see our local artists and experience what Akron has to offer,” Joel says.
Everything in Northside Marketplace is centered around small business to encourage people to shop local and shop small. Aside from pop up events, this is the only place you can go in Akron to purchase from a variety of local vendors.
One of those vendors, Dirty River Bicycle Works, began as a startup and now has a home in Northside Marketplace. Owner Ryan “Otis” Adams says the marketplace is helping him succeed because it’s given him a community of people he can rely on.
“It’s really nice being here because there’s 40 of us and we’re all working together,” Otis says. “Everybody is doing social media, everybody is having events and trying and it’s a neat thing. It’s not like I’m all on my own.”
Joel says the Marketplace is designed to help people like Otis. While researching and learning about challenges small business owners face, Joel says entrepreneurs communicated two major problems: Money and time.
The marketplace is solving both issues by granting a portion of the entrepreneurs cheap rent through a six-month subsidy program. And the convenient checkout point at the front of the marketplace allows customers to purchase products from entrepreneurs who aren’t always there because they have full time jobs outside their business.
This process makes it easier on customers because they no longer have to wait for pop-up events to purchase items from local vendors.
“They can focus on creating more product and let the marketplace sell their product instead of going from place to place and popping up and popping down and doing all the work of set-up and tear-down,” Joel says.
For the small business owners, this process is perfect because they get to keep all of the money from the products that they sell. Northside Marketplace doesn’t take any of it.
This is what drew OY-L, an Akron-based zero chemical skin care company, into the space.
“It’s really exciting because we are in Downtown Akron at the Akron Global Business Accelerator, but we don’t have retail space there so it’s really great to have something here” Emily Stryker, production manager at OY-L ,says.
OY-L is part of the Made in Akron area of Northside Marketplace, which consists of 15 small businesses that share one space. For $30-$35 a month, business owners or artists can rent out a shelf or a wall where they can display and sell their products.
This idea was so popular that the space sold out overnight, and Joel has a list of 30 vendors on a waiting list wanting to get into the space.
“The Made in Akron has been a very organic development,” Joel says. “We had a lot of people who said ‘I want to come in here desperately, but I can’t afford that. I can afford $35 or $50 a month.’ So we took one of the big spaces and we broke it up.”
Fiber artist and owner of Leez Designz Linda Everhard is also part of the Made in Akron space. Linda is getting social media help from the other entrepreneurs while also benefitting from the foot traffic, which comes in from anchors Rubber City Clothing, Sure House Coffee and Dirty River Bicycle Works.
“It’s awesome to be around [the entrepreneurs],” she says. “You get the synergy of all the artists and you get to learn and be around different ideas.”
The social media help that Linda is getting is part of Joel’s ultimate goal to mentor and support the entrepreneurs and artists enough so that they feel comfortable pursuing their own brick and mortar spaces in the future.
“We have local lenders, attorneys, accountants, all the things that these vendors will need to grow,” Joel says.
Through all this, community members who shop the space get the personal interactions that they want. They meet the business owners and know that they’re shopping for a great cause.
“We’re creative, we’re very grassroots, very local, which is what I love about the marketplace,” Joel says. “It’s so much about us.”
Visit Northside Marketplace during their Grand Opening on Friday, November 17 from 4 – 10 pm. There will be contests and door prizes at the event, including an Akron Honey Company honey giveaway. Show your social media post with #NorthsideMarketplace and receive happy hour prices all night at Jilly’s and DBA. After the Grand opening, there will be music at Jilly’s Music Room.
21 Furnace St. Akron, OH 44308