River City MRKT creates a place for artisans, designers, and crafters to share and sell their work.

The initial installation of River City MRKT -- a new, annual series of events celebrating art, DIY, and the area’s talented artists and designers -- took place on Saturday, June 6 in REO Town. Run by Lansing  photographer, Debbie Carlos, and jewelry designer and events planner, Amalia Boukos, River City MRKT was created to bring a one day pop-up art & craft market to Lansing.

AA Creative Corridor was abuzz with local residents oohing and aahing over the variety on display, from jewelry and postcards, to home goods, art prints, and edible goods … like, mouthwatering macarons and free pour-over coffees from local roasters. River City MRKT is a display of the creativity and entrepreneurial futures of creatives right here in the Capital region.

“Going to the markets that go on in town, there was a need for something in line with our aesthetics,” says Debbie Carlos, who got her start planning markets and other events while living in Chicago.

Carlos and her River City MRKT partner Amalia Boukos met when Carlos moved to Lansing. Boukos wanted to see some of Carlos’ work in person after she saw Carlos’ work on Etsy. Carlos invited Boukos to her studio and the two became friends immediately.

“We kind of just hit it off, right off the bat. She (Boukos) approached me about doing a market and it was sort of like, ‘yeah let’s do it’,” says Carlos. “We wanted to be a part of creating a space here, where we live and do something unique and exciting.”

Choosing REO Town as the location gave River City MRKT it’s unique flair. REO Town recently became a member of the Michigan Main Street Program for assistance with economic development. Saddleback BBQ, new to REO Town, used the River City MRKT as a chance for a soft opening.

“We were looking for people who did have a more modern aesthetic, something a little more in line with current trends and we wanted to have a lot of Lansing makers, which was really important to us, but also Michigan Makers,” says Boukos.

Creating a culture of local makers and artisan crafters was crucial to the success of River City MRKT as it provided a networking channel for the vendors, and gave the community something to truly support.

“The great thing about the River City MRKT is that it was all artisan makers and different small businesses. There was a real connection between all of the producers involved because we have each pursued a different little niche and put a lot of work and effort into it.  We were blown away by some of the goods that were being sold and were thrilled to be a part of it. It was a really fun representation of some of the artists and makers that are doing incredible things in Michigan right now,” says Jeremy Mason, of Craft & Mason Roasting Co.

With the idea of having local Michigan makers and small businesses, River City MRKT created a day's worth of beautiful scenery and aesthetics to bring more life into REO Town. Some of the River City MRKT vendors that were local to Lansing included Debbie Carlos Photography, 517 Shirts, Lindsay Jones, Strange Matter Coffee Co., Craft & Mason Coffee Roasters, Abigail Murray, and Kayma Boutique.

“Bringing more beautiful things to Lansing is something that was really inspiring to us, and also supporting local entrepreneurs. Such a big part of this market is really just promoting these vendors and having a culture that is interested in people who make things in their local community,” says Boukos.

This type of promotion helped local small businesses engage with the local community on a more grandiose level than what they would normally have the chance to do, when they are too busy creating what is most special to them.

“Any time we get to engage with local folks and talk about coffee, we always look forward to it,” says Mason. “We spend a lot of time in our roasting space and wish we had more time to build more community around what we do. It is always rewarding to be able to interact and build relationships with anybody who has an interest. Interacting with local makers and artists from all over the state was a huge bonus. We felt so connected to the group that was there and it energized us in our own pursuit. We are hoping to be involved in more events like this in the future.”

With the success of this year’s first annual River City MRKT, there will surely be more craft, artisan vendors sharing their goods at future River City MRKTs. Don’t miss out on next year’s.
 
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Jared Field is a frequent contributor to Capital Gains.

Photos © Dave Trumpie
 
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
 
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