For holiday gifts, new outdoor market beckons

Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In contrast to the frenzied Black Friday rush that kicks off the holiday gift-buying season for most shoppers, the inaugural Downcity Providence Holiday Market offered residents a more leisurely experience Saturday. The outdoor market — which will be open every Saturday until Dec. 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Westminster Street — aims to serve local artisan and farmed goods along with a dash of holiday cheer.

“A lot of the bigger cities have outdoor markets, so we asked, ‘Why not Providence?'” said Mike Hutchison, a vendor at the market and one of its founders. Hutchison and his wife, Polly, who led a wreath-making demonstration Saturday afternoon, are the owners of Robin Hollow Farm in Saunderstown, R.I.

The market’s location is ideal because of the heavy traffic brought in from the other businesses on the street, said Joanna Leavitt, who is an organizer for In Downcity, the business coalition that sponsors the market, and also works for Cornish Associates, which owns the Westminster Street property.

The crowd at the market started out small on Saturday morning. Most of the shoppers seemed to have stumbled upon it while out enjoying the unseasonably warm weather or shopping at the nearby downtown businesses.

Hutchison said he and his wife expect more shoppers in coming weeks and attributed the low numbers to people’s travel plans over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Vendor Steve Demeter, owner of the Coffee Guy in Middletown, was selling gift baskets of his artisan roasted coffee. Demeter had two other markets lined up for the day and heard about the Hutchisons’ venture through the farmers market circuit.

Demeter said the market is a great opportunity for artisans to sell their goods in a city setting to customers they might not see at some of the state’s other craft markets.

Other booths at the holiday market include Virginia and Spanish Peanut Co., Namaste Designs and Farmacy Herbs.

The family-friendly holiday market also features weekly entertainment, including carolers from the Wheeler School Chorus, Ladies of the Rolling Pin’s Border Morris dancers and weekly visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

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