By Hayley Crandall
With the holidays right around the corner comes the onslaught of holiday gift shopping, but Milwaukee Makers Market’s “Shop Small Saturday” at Discovery World is hoping to bring a community aspect to it.
The market takes place Saturday, Nov. 28, the weekend after Thanksgiving, a time that has been deemed one of the busiest shopping periods of the entire year – but this market is not just another shopping mall. It works to offer an experience for both customers and vendors, explained owner Ryan Laessig,
“I like to call it a one-stop-shop local experience because it’s not just about coming and spending money,” Laessig said. “It is an experience. You get to meet these makers; you get to see exactly where the products are coming from and half of the time the stories, I hear at the market are just incredible.”
While vendors get a chance to display and share their creations, customers get to meet and interact with the person behind the work. This helps create a connection people get to take with them, Laessig said.
“This is a chance for people to put a face to the name of your company,” Laessig explained. “Anybody can order off Etsy, but if they don’t know who’s actually making it, there isn’t really a connection there. With Milwaukee Makers Markets, you’re able to get the connection with new customers, with fans and supporters.”
The vendors that make up the five-year-old market aren’t just sellers, Laessig said. They have to be the makers behind the products for sale.
“I use the word vendors just so it is easier for people to understand but these are makers,” Laessig said. “They’re not vendors in the sense of wholesales. They’re not LulaRoe, they’re not Mary Kay, they’re not Avon. When it comes to the application process, the number one thing on the website is that you must make what you sell.”
The market is made up of 24 different vendors from Wisconsin. The line-up rotates now and then, offering a mix of past favorites and new faces.
Product variety is another focus for Laessig as he tries to incorporate a mix of mediums. Products range from jewelry to clothing to candles and more.
“I try not to saturate it too much,” Laessig said. “I usually limit it at two to three of a certain type of product.”
The Milwaukee Makers Market had a bumpy start earlier this year as most of its plans got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the website, but it was able to pick back up in September with safety precautions in place.
Laessig makes sure to take count of the number of people shopping at a time to regulate the crowd. The market also enforces social distancing guidelines, require masks to be worn and offers hand sanitizer, Laessig explained.
Previous “Shop Small Saturday” markets have seen a surge in customers but Laessig is ready to control any potential crowds this year.
“When we’ve had 3,000 to 4,000 people crowds, those were on a Shop Small Saturday,” Laessig said, adding. “I’m prepared to stand outside and count people.”
While stuff behind the scenes has had to shift with the current world situation, one thing that hasn’t wavered during these times is people’s excitement to shop local.
“It’s definitely been successful throughout these years and I know a lot of people are itching to support local during this pandemic,” Laessig said. “We’ve been having a great response.”
The market is hosted in the pavilion of Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Dr., and runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry is free. The next market is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 20 at Discovery World. Information can be found on the Milwaukee Makers Market Facebook page or its website, http://www.milwaukeemakersmarket.com/.