Swan City Market Life

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Welcomed with Open Arms!

MrManHUG

I pulled up to my regular Market spot this morning before the sun rose, and my first inclination was to run and hug my vendor buddies! However, I have on more than one occasion, been known to socialize when I should be unloading and setting up…and then Jim, our fearless Market manager, has to nudge me gently in the right direction. 🙂 So I withheld my hugging impulses until after I unloaded and parked my car…Being back was great!

My Granny — who is the wisest woman I’ve ever known, and whom I often quote — has traveled a lot in her 89 years. I always ask her about her trips upon her return, and she always says that she had a fabulous time, but that the real purpose in taking a vacation so that we’re glad to come back home. I thought about that bit of her wisdom today as I admired the bustling crowd at today’s reopening day, and I realized it was totally applicable. Being away from the Market for the month of August made me so much more appreciative of being there today. Everything familiar and wonderful about the Market meant a lot more to me after not having it in my life for a little while. I talked with many vendors and customers who shared the same sentiment.

And reopening day was not without its fanfare! Applebutter Express played fun tunes that had me tapping my toe (and feeling a little jealous of those dancing right in front of the stage). New vendors were welcomed, and each brings a special new element to the Market. Last but certainly not least, the “Curbie Award” — given to the vendor with the most votes on the recent Market customer survey — was awarded to my buddy Ron at Sugarbuzz Dezert Company! I’m very happy that all of Ron’s hard work on his business paid off! There’s no better feeling than the appreciation of your customers, and although every vendor is deserving of their own award, I know Ron loves filling Lakeland’s bellies with yummy goodness and love!

Coming back to the Market today was wonderful, not just because we all felt refreshed from time off, but because it was just good to be HOME. To be back to what is a familiar routine. To be back to a community of friendship, creativity, and good ol’ fashioned wholesomeness.

I can’t wait to continue learning the life lessons the Market has to teach me. I just get the feeling that some very special things are going to happen in this new Market season!


On a friendship-related note, I’d like to use this blog post to promote International Women’s Friendship Month (IWFM), which comes around each September. I try to use my Market business (Swan City Stitchery) as a platform for important causes that are near and dear to my heart. IWFM is very special to me because it was imagined and created by Kappa Delta Sorority, of which I am an alumna sister. Kappa Delta has played a very important role in my life, connecting me with not only some of my very best friends in life, but also helping shape me into the confident, capable woman that I am today. One of Kappa Delta’s platforms is the Confidence Coalition, which serves to mobilize the many organizations, companies and individuals that promote self-esteem and confidence among girls and women. Through my involvement in Kappa Delta and the love of my sisters and women friends, I have truly learned to feel comfortable in my own skin and learned that a person’s beauty is so much deeper than what you can see with your eyes. Today, I volunteer for Kappa Delta as an alumna advisor to my chapter at Florida Southern College, which helps me continue to learn about being a confident woman and share with college students what I have learned about being a confident woman.

So, because September is International Women’s Friendship Month, and because women’s friendships are so valuable, I want to share with you all an opportunity to win a very cool contest offered by the Confidence Coalition. Throughout September, all women can celebrate their most cherished friends by entering the Confidence Coalition’s 2013 International Women’s Friendship Month Photo Contest. Entrants will submit a photo with a caption that answers the question, “How do your friendships build your confidence?” If you submit the winning photo, you and a friend will win a girlfriends’ getaway to Memphis, Tennessee to have lunch with IWFM spokesperson Leigh Anne Tuohy (a Kappa Delta alumna), the real-life inspiration behind the film “The Blind Side.” Leigh Anne is also an acclaimed author, the host of the uplifting TV series, “Family Addition with Leigh Anne Tuohy,” and an advocate for women’s friendship!

You do not have to be a member of Kappa Delta to enter the contest! You just have to be a woman who is willing to share about a friendship that builds your confidence! I have so many incredible female customers that this seemed like a very fitting cause to share for the month of September. 🙂 All the details about entering the contest can be found on the Confidence Coalition’s website.

Looking forward to SO many things!
– H.


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The Heat Is On…

It’s that time of year when we could all swear the humidity is somehow above 100%. That time of year when afternoon rains roll in just as reliable as a Yellowstone geyser. We kick off hurricane season without so much as the bat of an eye. School lets out and summer camps and vacations commence. We switch out hot coffee for iced coffee. And summer doesn’t even officially start until June 21!

I’ve had to free my feet from actual shoes and wear sandals every Saturday now. My feet have gone from stark white to perhaps ecru or eggshell in a matter of weeks, although leaving white lines where my sandal straps rest. I found myself thinking back yesterday to December, January, and February of this Market season. Oh, the memories of arriving on Kentucky Ave. at 6:30AM in the total darkness, with temperatures somewhere in the 40’s and vendors dressed in 3 or 4 layers. Of course, by 10:30AM, we had usually shed at least a layer or two because the temperature had climbed to the upper 60’s. We couldn’t feel our hands to set up our tents. We’d hug one another good morning, and often linger for a little extra snuggle and an exchange of body heat.

Those days seem so far away now. Now, once I pack up my booth at the end of the Market each weekend, I am tempted to drive straight to Barnett Park and sit in the cool, refreshing fountains for a while (except that I’d be the creepy lady without kids). It’s that time of year when it could be really miserable to be outside at the Market. But amazingly, we’re still all there! Vendors are faithful in attendance, even though wearing one layer of clothing seems like too much. Customers are still steady throughout the day, even though the local supermarkets and big box stores are running their A/C’s full-blast. And we remain united — not just because we’re miserably hot together, but because the Market matters. Buying the freshest local organic produce at the best price matters. Buying gifts from local artisans matters. Because our local economy matters. Our relationships with one another matter. Our Saturday routine and commitment to our Market Community matters, even if it makes us physically miserable for a little while. 🙂

There are only 7 Saturdays left in this Market season. And yes, you can pretty much count on each of those Saturdays being rather miserable. But we depend on you and appreciate you in a way that those fancy air-conditioned retailers don’t. And come August, I’m willing to bet you’ll even miss us a little bit. That first Saturday of September will seem like forever away! And if nothing else, it is true that misery loves company, so at least stop by and commiserate with us about how hot it is. Over Teaki Bars and iced tea, we can discuss what crazy notion ever possessed Florida’s settlers to choose this muggy swampland to call home…but also be so thankful that they did!

Thank you so much for sticking with us…even at this time of year when your clothes are sticking to your body like flypaper. 🙂


Just as an aside, while we’re discussing the dog days of summer, I’d like to mention that I’m doing a casting all for all Canine Customers of the Market. Would you and your pooch like to be featured in an upcoming Swan City Market Life blog post? All interested pups and their people to stop by Swan City Stitchery next Saturday, June 15 for a photo and to give some insight on the varied personalities (dog-alities?) of our four-legged regulars. There will even be treats involved! (For dogs only, although any humans who enjoy eating dog treats will not be judged!) And since we’ve established that it will be hot, there will be a dog bowl of refreshing water as well. 🙂


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A Perfect Ten!

It’s been a hot minute since my last blog post. I haven’t forgotten about you out there in the blogosphere! I have just been considering the right topic and verbage for the most epic blog post about a farmer’s market that you will ever read. And I’m pretty sure I have a good grip on it now…

I’ve been a vendor at the Market for 6 months now. During those 6 months, it’s amazing to me that so many Saturdays I meet a customer who says, “This is my first time at this Market…It’s pretty neat!” I tend to ask these new customers where they are from, and I’m usually surprised to find that they say, “Oh, the southside of town/northside of town…I just don’t make it this direction very much.” Now, even though I’ve only been a vendor for 6 months, I’ve been a Market customer since way back. I remember the Market’s humble beginnings as a tiny little smattering of tents in the Bay Street parking lot. From my very first visit, I was hooked. And hopefully you’re reading this because you’re hooked. But chances are you know someone — a Lakelander even — who has never been to the Market or doesn’t even know it exists. And it may take some persuading to convince that person to take the 15 minute drive downtown with you to come check it out. So, my Market customer friends, I will do the persuading for you…You just pick your reason(s) from the list below, explain them to that person you know who has never been to the Market, and convince them to come with you excitedly this Saturday!

Reasons for Visiting the Lakeland Downtown Farmer’s Curb Market:

1. The Market is IMPRESSIVE. I say that as both a customer and a vendor. The variety of booths at the Market is really something incredible. Need bath soap, produce for the week, a baby shower gift, and then hoping to squeeze in time for a relaxing massage? We have all that! The Market is your one stop shop! Our Market extends from the railroad tracks at Kentucky almost to Bay Street (where our little Market roots were first planted), with multiple rows of vendors down each block. You truly won’t believe the variety the Market offers.

2. Your money stays local…And often doubly local! Here’s an example: When I buy Dutchy’s Granola each week, I am supporting sweet Ms. Janet. The money she earns from my sale will go back into our local community when Janet purchases the groceries she needs to make next week’s batch of granola. AND, she’ll spend a portion of that money buying Country Bees local honey to sweetener her granola naturally! Boom, double local impact! Or, if I buy a Plant City Strawberry Teaki Truck Pop, not only am I supporting the locals of Teaki Truck, I’m supporting a local farmer, too. Now if you took your money to another store — Let’s just call it TargMart for the sake of illustration — your money is headed off to a corporate account somewhere far away, like…oh, I dunno, Little Rock, Arkansas or Minneapolis, Minnesota. So not only is your money headed out of our area, it will eventually be paid to corporate stockholders, and then it could end up even further away, like…oh, what’s a good example here? Maybe a off-shore account? There are vendors who sell products from abroad, but by and large, those products are fair trade and support sustainability in developing areas of the world.

3. You discover there are lots of really cool things going on downtown! Us Marketeers are really used to co-existing with downtown events because there are so many of them going on! From the Garden Extravaganza and Spring Obsession, to Fancy Flea and Chalk for Charity. Arts events, events for every kind of hobbyist, faith-based events, family events, literary events involving local writers, fundraising events for Lakeland’s many worthy causes…they’re all going on downtown, and visiting the Market is a great way to discover two fun things in one day!

4. When you buy something meant for human or animal consumption, you will know what all the ingredients are without an advanced degree in chemistry. They will be real, common-knowledge ingredients that you can pronounce, and you can rest assured they won’t be harmful to you or your loved ones. What in the heck is “BHT?” I dunno, but it’s listed in the ingredients of store-brand granola bars…next to it, it says “(preservative).” Comparing that to Dutchy’s, which has oats, wheat germ, flax seed, honey, the healthy variety of nut of your choosing…I think I’ll pass on that “BHT.”

5. You will leave with new friends. When a Market vendor asks you your name and introduces themself to you, they will know you when you return. They will ask how you are doing, and they will really care about how you answer that question. They will be glad that you’re back. They will notice if you haven’t been around in a while, and they’ll make sure everything’s been okay with you. They will look at the photos of your grandkids and dogs on your Smartphone and be genuinely excited about the people, pets, and things that are important to you. They will thank you for being a regular and a friend. And they will mean all of it. Try getting that from TargMart.

6. The Market is good for the environment. Many vendors feature a special focus on eco-friendly merchandise or organic produce. Many offer upcycled creations. Some even give you a discount if you return your empty container when it’s time to buy a refill! We’ll gladly take donations of your plastic bags to use again for our sales. You won’t have to use gas and give off emissions as you drive all over town to find what you need. And since I mentioned our vendors buying locally, they don’t order things from China that require A LOT of petroleum/energy to arrive here in the US. Last but certainly not least, you will enjoy the time you spend outside in our open-air Market, and you’ll leave feeling closer to Mother Nature.

7. You’ll be part of a community. I know I mentioned that you’ll leave with new friends, but the Market truly goes deeper than that. Customers and vendors aren’t “JUST” customers and vendors. We’re interconnected, we’re bound together by our common values, we’re invested in one another…and we’d love to have you join us!

8. We’re open to your feedback. In fact, we actually appreciate it and value it! Some of my best product and marketing ideas have come from my customers who have said, “You know what you could do…?” If you have a comment or concern, you won’t have to call an 800-number and wait on hold for a customer services representative. You’ll be face-to-face with the booth’s owner at every visit! We even have a committee to whom you can take your comments and suggestions for the Market!

9. You’ll get what you pay for. Every Market purchase is a purchase of the highest quality. Your produce will be the freshest and finest, so you’ll get optimum nutrition. Your gifts (for others or yourself!) will be unique and handmade to last by experienced artisans. You’ll savor every last bite of your beignets, cheesecake, or fruit and tea frozen pop. No buyer’s remorse at this Market!

10. You’ll be in on one of Lakeland’s Best Kept Secrets. Except we don’t want to be a secret! We want you to tell EVERYONE you know! We want all of the above reasons the Market is so great to exist for a really long time, and we want our entire Lakeland area (Polk County and Plant City included, of course!) to be so excited that every new customer feels inspired to bring a new customer some day. We want to be a household topic of conversation. We want to be part of your Saturday routine. We want to be a gathering place for you and your friends.

Perhaps you even have your own reasons for shopping at the Market. I am quite sure there are more than the few I mentioned above. If you have other reasons, I’d love to hear them. I’d also love to hear who you know that you’re going to bring to the Market for the first time!

Hoping to see all of you +1 this Saturday!

In Community,
Heather.


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Flip Side

I may or may not have just eaten half a tub of Dutchy’s Coconut Almond Granola as my after-work snack.

Okay, I did. I did, and it was awesome. I had a tough day at work, and at least I chose a healthy snack. (Plus, I polished off the last of my Sugarbuzz cheesecake yesterday…)

I always love my work with my clients, but I might not have mentioned before that I also supervise the program in which I work. The supervisor part can sometimes be unsavory. It’s days like today I am most grateful for Saturdays and The Market. When I’m stuck in my office under the harsh sting of flourescent lights trying to dig my way out of a mountain of paperwork, I remind myself that I am at least one day closer to Market Day! I am at least one day closer to not having to supervise anyone but me. Having that counterpart to my week really helps me stay in balance.

A day in the sunshine, enjoying a fresh breeze blowing down Kentucky Ave., and visits from my regular customers and vendor buddies is just the pick-me-up I need to feel rejuvenated at the end of a difficult week and help me feel refreshed to face a new week. I know I’m not the only vendor who feels this way. I am amazed at how many vendors maintain full-time jobs during the week and somehow manage the strength to crawl out of bed, make it to the market by 7AM to set up, and engage a full-on cheerful attitude toward their customers from 8am ’til 2pm. I’m equally amazed by the vendors who aren’t hobbyists. They make their living by bringing you their talent, crafts, skills, and bounty of their green thumbs. I’ve met several vendors who fell victim to the economy and were laid off in the past few years. How incredible that they managed to find a way to carry on. Those vendors inspire me.

And when it’s Monday, and it has been a hard day, and next Saturday seems so far away, I can look back to the awesome day I had the Saturday before. Take this weekend, for example…So many people checking out the Market for the first time because Mayfaire drew them downtown. Many people looking for the perfect gift for their moms for Mother’s Day. That was extra-special for me. I lost my mom to leukemia when I was 12-years-old. I took a lot of joy this past weekend in seeing lots of families out with Mom, celebrating their special relationship. Some people don’t really value and notice that sort of thing until you don’t have it anymore. I felt very honored that several people chose something from my booth to be that special Mother’s Day gift for their moms. It helped me feel like part of the holiday, whereas in the past, I have felt like a holiday outsider on Mother’s Day.

To close on an unrelated note, I have to apologize for missing the Vendor of the Week feature this past week. The power source on my laptop went out, and I didn’t realize it until my laptop battery went dead. Now, with a new power source secured, I will be back to my regularly scheduled posts! Check back a little later this week to read about the Featured Vendor. And of course, we’ll plan to see you downtown this Saturday!

Happily,
Heather.


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Good things.

I woke up yesterday morning not feeling so hot. And I woke up this morning feeling even less hot. As my 5:45AM alarm roared, I debated whether I would go to the market or stay home, but ultimately decided that I was tough and that a little cold wouldn’t hold me down. Now, I’m very glad I went to the Lakeland Downtown Farmers’ Curb Sauna, I mean Market, because it was a hot day, and I must’ve sweated out whatever was ailing me because I feel really good now! Maybe it wasn’t so much the sweat as it was the good vibes and the positivity of a great community, though. 🙂

I tried to pay attention to the small things that happen at the Market that you don’t see happen at big box stores, or in most other places in today’s culture. A little boy in his soccer uniform shopped with his mom, proudly wearing a medal bearing a soccer ball around his neck. I watch another vendor ask him about his medal and compliment him on a season well-played. I imagine him sleeping with that medal on his neck right now, or at the very least, hung on a special nail in a special spot on the wall in his bedroom.

I watched Ayden (I learned that I spelled his name wrong in my post week.) turn with concern to check out every crying baby, the look in his eyes saying that he yearned for each baby to be comforted so that he would know they were okay. I also watched him stack rocks he collected from the railroad tracks after he watched a train go by — that kid can stack some rocks, I tell ya!  I also watched Ayden and his older cousin Noah share my extra chair so respectfully — Ayden asked if he could please sit in the chair while Noah was sitting it in, and Noah said, “Sure, since you asked so nicely.”

Ayden’s big sister Lexi was at the Market today too, and today was her extra-special 10th birthday! Double digits! Several family friends came by and delivered her birthday cards bearing a total of $31. She told me she is saving to buy an American Girl Doll. At one point, she ventured over to Kerry’s beautiful jewelry booth. Kerry has an older gentleman friend who comes to spend time with her most Saturdays, and I know it’s because her graceful spirit draw others to her. As Lexi browsed Kerry’s booth, she mentioned it was her birthday, and Kerry’s friend (whose name I regretful don’t know yet) bought a flowered hairclip for Lexi. I helped Lexi put it in her hair above her ponytail, and I took a picture of her hair on my phone so she could see how pretty it was.

Happy Birthday, Lexi!

We enjoyed live music, played by area school bands, wafting over to the Market from Munn Park, where the Polk County School Board Fine Arts Festival was happening. With lots of kids around, I got to give out plenty of Pinwheels for Prevention since today is the last Saturday of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

One of my clients from my day job stopped by to show me a bike that someone gave him recently. A very nice older steel-framed road bike. He had come to check out BikeBash13, and was glad to learn that there was live music in the park. He was a jazz musician himself in his younger days. When I started working with this man, he was homeless, depressed, socially isolated, and angry. Now he maintains his own apartment, is out and about in the community, and always has a smile and a kind word for others. It was a blessing to see him beaming and enjoying a beautiful life that he at one point didn’t think was possible for him.

A few new customers, several of my regulars, and many vendors all paid me complements on my blog! I am so glad that it is reaching others in a positive way. It felt good to hear people know my name, even if I hadn’t met them yet. I have to admit that I shop regularly at Target, and yes, usually about once a month at WalMart, and although I have checked out with long-time cashiers on more than one occasion, I haven’t taken the time to know their names. I say this not to point out that the Market is a better shopping environment that the big box stores (although, let’s be real – it is), I say it to point out how important it is to take the moment of time it takes to acknowledge that someone exists. I noticed special things about the special people all around me today, and it wasn’t hard to see because I was looking for it. Maybe I could take a moment to know my regular cashiers’ names at Target, ask them how their day is going, care that they exist — even if it is just for the few moments they are hurriedly running my items past the scanner so they can move on to the person behind me in line.

The world would be a much nicer place if bits and pieces of the Market existed everywhere, don’t you think? I think we can make that happen. 🙂

On a semi-related note, I have decided to feature a different Market vendor each week on my blog. There are many vendors I know, but plenty that I don’t know. Each of us plays an important role in the Market community, so I want to do my part in learning about how everyone contributes their part. I’ll pass my insights on to you, and I hope you’ll find inspiration in the nuggets of knowledge you gain about each vendor, and then go a step further to let them know how you appreciate that they exist in our wonderful Market community! My first vendor feature is in the works, so stop back by later this week for an update!

Enjoy the rest of a beautiful weekend!

Namaste –
Heather.


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Market Life

Wow. Being a member of this awesome Market community is such a blessing. I am surrounded every Saturday by so many giving and kind people — both customers and vendors. I didn’t do a whole lot of business today, but what I got in love and smiles definitely made up for it. I’ve never had a slow business day that wasn’t “worth it” because this Market community is just so fulfilling.

Ms. Janet at Dutchy’s Granola and I enjoyed a chat, during which she said I’m “like a daughter” to her. I shared laughs with Sharon, The Soap Magician, like every Saturday. Ron at Sugarbuzz came over to my booth and said, “You look like you could use a snickerdoodle,” and gave me a cookie, just because he knows I love cinnamon. 🙂 Jim Luna, our wonderful Market manager, walked by and told me good morning at least three times. And Jerrod at the poor porker as well as The Blueberry Guy helped me navigate my car in an out of the Market area during load out.

And that’s just the outpouring of love I received from other vendors! Several of my friends and regular customers came by to shop. I appreciate their support more than I can say.

I ask you, is there any nicer way you could spend a Saturday?

Well, there is, actually. I had a very out-of-the-ordinary Saturday because Karen The Flower Lady, who has the booth next to me, brought her adorable grandson Aidan with her to the Market today. I’m not sure what drew Aidan and I together, but our connection started with him offering me a monster truck sticker that I of course accepted.

sticker

After that, we were official buddies, and he ended up hanging out at my booth for most of the day. Aidan is in kindergarten, and he has that spirit and energy that makes all of us thirty-somethings long for the simpler days of childhood. He came prepared with his bag of fun things to keep him occupied — markers and a coloring book, a baggie full of rubberbands, “hanitizer” (what he calls “hand sanitizer,” which I think is an absolutely brilliant name mash up), and a giant rubber tarantula that he made a leash for by the end of the day. He helped me arrange and rearrange my inventory on my tables several times so that things would sell better. I was giving away pinwheels to all the kids at the Market today for Child Abuse Prevention Awareness which the month of April is dedicated to), and he had never had a pinwheel before, so he was quite taken with his, and he helped me make sure I asked all the kids who passed by if they would like one. He also reminded me several times that it would be nice to say “Good morning” to everyone walking by. I told him he was so right. He offered to share his Doritos and kettle corn with me. At the end of the day, Aidan brought me a beautiful arrangement of daisies that his “G” put together for me as a thank you for letting him hang out with me. I felt like it was me that should be thanking her!

flowers

Aidan asked if I’d be at the Market next Saturday and gave me a hug goodbye. The pure and innocent love of a child was an overwhelming joy for me today.

I had a few things to sell today that I’ll have next week, too…

scrapornaments
Scrap Ornaments for Mama Birds — In my effort to be eco-friendly, I’ve saved LOTS of fabric scraps to make these for Spring. Hang one in your tree to attract nesting birds. Mamas will pull out the scraps of fabric to weave into their nests! Wrapped and hung with 100% hemp twine. $3 each

rb
Rice Buddy Compresses are wonderful for easing your aches and pains. You can warm them in your microwave or cool them in your fridge or freezer to use them hot or cold. Essential oils of lavendar and lemongrass are added to help soothe you and boost your mood. Filled with 100% long grain rice. XL Buddy – $15, Large Buddy – $12, Eye Mask Buddy – $10

lbc
Lip Balm Cozies are a Swan City Stitchery classic. Necessity is the mother of invention, and as a lib balm addict, I had to find a way to stop losing my precious Chapsticks, or worse — running them through the washing machine or leaving them to melt in the cup holder of my car. Zip your favorite lip balm into one of these cozies to keep it handy on your keys, purse, backpack, etc. Now featuring Made in Lakeland “Nail Saver” keychains, purchased right here in town from my friend Mr. Pridmore! $7 each includes a free tube of lip balm to start you on your addiction! 🙂

pw
And next Saturday is the last Saturday of Child Abuse Prevention Month. I’ll still have free pinwheels for the kiddos, free parenting books, and a free handout of 30 fun things to do with your child or teen! 20% of Swan City Stitchery’s proceeds during April will be donated to local child welfare programs, so come shop for a cause!

Sock Bunnies are also still available, and I’ve had a request for some other sock animals, so I’m going to work on a design for those this week! I also got in a shipment of dyeables late last week, so I’ll be working on hand-painted silk scarves and some fun tie dyed cotton headscarves!

Hope you all enjoyed a Saturday as uplifting as mine! See you next weekend!

Peace –
Heather.