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'Brick and mortar is very difficult': Holiday pop-up markets support artists and small businesses

From purveyors of vintage clothing to hand-made crafts, local vendors are finding support and community in numbers.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Even before the pandemic hit, Portland’s pop-up markets were becoming increasingly important to small business owners and local artists. On Thursday night, 26 vendors of vintage clothing, crafts and art set up their wares at the Kenton Holiday Bazaar in North Portland. The World Famous Kenton Club hosted the event for free — one example of the community support vendors have come to rely on.

“When you shop locally, when you shop small, you're literally helping an actual individual person who sees and feels the importance of your support,” said vintage clothing vendor and event co-organizer Grace Hernandez. Since last summer, Hernandez has been organizing more pop-up markets to help herself and others make ends meet.

“Some people aren't returning back to work and aren't going back to that 9 to 5,” said Hernandez. “People are looking for alternatives in things they enjoy, like, I enjoy shopping and reselling.”

There are also makers of jewelry, ceramics, and visual artists like co-organizer Hannah Fredrickson.

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“I'd say the brick and mortar is very difficult for people,” said Fredrickson. “The [pop-up] network that is happening, it fills my heart with joy seeing people connect with each other, making that space for each other.”

Vendor Katelyn Hale wanted to be a part of that community. Hale, who grows and arranges her own dried-flower art, saw the pop-up bazaar as an opportunity to challenge the shopping status quo—even a little bit.

“I know that Amazon has made huge profits during the pandemic and a lot of small businesses have closed down and that just makes me really sad,” said Hale.

The Kenton Holiday Bazaar was a one-time event, but there are several other events planned around Portland including craft fairs, bazaars and holiday markets. These small business owners understand not everyone can get to a pop-up event this season, but vendors hope shoppers will think about dropping in — a new way of doing things the old way, together.

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