On a Saturday night, artist Justin Wilkins sits behind three long tables in Atlantic Station’s shopping district, brush in hand, watching the sunset. But Wilkins didn’t just enjoy the view: He showcased his work at the Maker’s Market, an outdoor market for vendors held weekly on Saturday and Sunday nights at Atlantic Station’s event site.
“This is our sixth year on the market. It’s grown more or less steadily over time,” Powell said. “It’s really established itself as a small business haven in Atlanta.”
Powell, who has served as executive director of Makers Market since its inception in 2017, connects with local businesses through the market website and chooses which ones to feature.
“It’s a rotating community, so it’s an interesting dynamic,” Powell said. “We don’t use the same people every week, although there are some regulars.”
Atlantic Station’s outdoor space and popularity offers providers access to a diverse audience and increased visibility that most of the participating companies do not experience in the locations where they are based, many in residential areas outside of the Atlanta metro area.
For Richard Totimeh, salesman and operator of cold-press juice company Juice Champs, the convenient location and social media presence have led to easier ways to attract customers who may not visit his Kennesaw physical store.
“A lot of times I’ll post that I’ll be at Atlantic Station, and they’re going to come out of here,” he said.
“Unlike big companies, we don’t usually have the advertising and marketing or the funding. Anything helps, especially if you’re a small business,” said Wilkins, who has been in the market for four years.
“They really live out their passion and their inspiration and they bring this wonderful energy to the market.”
Aaron Powell, Market Curator – Makers Market
Much like Jones, designer Gregory Foreman started Respect Due, his clothing business, through an interaction with his own family.
“I had an 11-year-old son who didn’t recognize big artists like Prince and Michael Jackson,” he said. “I had to find another way to teach him history, especially black history.”
His solution was to use a screen printer to create t-shirts featuring various artists, musicians and activists he had admired growing up.
“Investing in small businesses is investing in the future.”
Kyonna Gibson, Founder – Herbal Luxuries LLC
The shirts’ success in teaching his son encouraged Foreman to develop his own business from the idea. Serving customers with a promise to “celebrate and enlighten,” the company has launched 12 different categories of shirts that pay tribute to legends, from author and poet Phyllis Wheatley to former NBA athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar .
“It was a bit difficult at first, but once we got out there, everyone loved it,” Foreman said. “No one but us went to teach these kids who did it before and what icons they are.”
Participating vendors and Powell both noted that Marker’s Market has created a welcoming home for marginalized business owners who deserve prominence, including black-owned and women-led businesses.
Kyonna Gibson, founder of Herbal Luxuries LLC, a line of all-natural holistic skincare products, says the inclusivity of the market has made the experience much more than selling and shaking hands with potential customers.
“All of the people I’ve met have become family…not only do you get to know people, you get to know their different stories and their different backgrounds,” she said. “We all live these different kinds of lives and lifestyles, but somehow we are all connected in this one place and time to share each other’s stories.”
Despite the financial and promotional benefits of Maker’s Market, many businesses are still struggling to continue operations and retain returning customers amid rising inflation and the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many vendors, the support of venues like Maker’s Market, as well as the business of loyal consumers, makes the trial and error a little more rewarding.
“[The Craftsmen]come in with so much creativity and enthusiasm…they really live out their passion and their inspiration and they bring this wonderful energy to the market,” Powell said.
“When you become an entrepreneur, you get to set your own schedule … instead of having a 9-to-5 job, spend time with your family,” Gibson said. “It makes me happy to know that I won’t be working for anyone, to know that the things I create have an impact on the world, even if it’s just about Georgia. Investing in small businesses is investing in the future.”
“Seeing a smile on people’s faces when I get to the booth lets me know I’m doing what I have to do,” Foreman said. “It will keep me awake in the extra late hours as the night progresses ever further.”