There is strength in numbers for Cheney micro-businesses
Cheney Community Market aims to boost small-scale crafters, artisans and farmers
By BECKY THOMAS
Many local businesses aren't visible on First Street. They don't have physical storefronts or regular hours. Many local businesses are made up of one person turning their skill into products that bring in income for their family.
A new organization in Cheney is aiming to help those people boost their business and gain visibility in the community. The Cheney Community Market, a new weekly market offering art, crafts, food and more, opened Tuesday afternoon with a variety of vendor booths.
Despite morning thunderstorms, vendors and customers were settling in Tuesday in the south end of the shopping center parking lot along Cheney-Spokane Road. Jewelry, knit items, crafts, fresh produce, honey, soap and more were for sale. Lots of children, many who belonged to moms with booths, were proudly brandishing balloon animals, swords and hats.
Tuesday's market signifies a dream becoming a reality for organizers.
Cheney Community Market board president Anna Harman and director Angie Morgan said they began talking a couple months ago about the need for a place to showcase local crafters and artisans; many they knew were stay-at-home moms like themselves.
“A lot of moms have a business so that they can afford to stay home,” Harman said.
Morgan had been working with the Cheney Farmers' Market, which sells fresh produce and crafts every Tuesday at the City Hall parking lot, but left the group to start the new market, which she said would be open to a wider variety of vendors.
“It's going to be a little bit more of a public market, which allows us to include a lot of different people,” she said.
Morgan said she doesn't want to compete with the farmers' market, but hoped the Cheney Community Market would offer a different and equally valuable experience for vendors and shoppers alike.
The Cheney Community Market, which began earlier this summer, has already established a full board, gathered more than 20 volunteers and begun the process of becoming a non-profit organization.
The group's main focus is the weekly market, held each Tuesday from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Harman and Morgan said they want the market to be family-friendly, offering kids' games and activities as well as a table for kids to sell items they make or grow at home. They also want to make it easy for people to set up a booth; they're charging $15 for a spot at the market and working with local businesses to sponsor booths for vendors who can't afford the fee.
The organizers said they expected the location to bring heavy foot traffic from businesses throughout the market day. Collins Family Dentistry and Banner Bank donated parking lot space for the booths and customer parking.
“Everyone has been so supportive, it's almost overwhelming,” Morgan said. When people hear about the organization, they offer their time, goods and services to help. “You don't even have to ask.”
The support is telling organizers that there is a need for the Cheney Community Market, and they are already planning ways to expand and partner with other local businesses. The group is planning several events in addition to the market, including a treasure hunt hitting several Cheney businesses this Saturday, Aug. 25.
“The idea is to get people into the businesses to talk to the owners and learn something new about each business,” Morgan said.
The free event starts and ends at the Cheney Craft Stampede, held at Bi-Mart Arena Saturday and Sunday. Morgan said the Cheney Events Association, which hosts the Craft Stampede, will be a great partner for the market as it grows.
Organizers also hope to make the Cheney Community Market a year-round staple, and are currently seeking an indoor space for the fall and winter.
“We have big dreams,” Morgan said. But so far the organization is working on a small budget, utilizing donations, social media and the skills of volunteers to make the market a success. But Morgan and Harman said that fundraisers will help pay for the operation of the market. As for renting an indoor space for the market, perhaps a surprise inheritance from a long-lost uncle would come along, they joked.
“Seriously, though, we're just trying to make this as positive as it can be,” Morgan said. “People in Cheney are so supportive. It will work out.”
Becky Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.