When life gives you lemons… you turn the challenges of 2020 into opportunities! That is what Heather Flett and Sophie Evanoff did when they decided to partner and bring a pop-up market inside a French bakery. Flett founded Handmade Market, a longstanding weekend shopping event, to bring together artists, designers and “makers of beautiful things,” as she likes to call them, under one roof—that of the Empty Bottle. But when the pandemic hit and live venues shut their doors, the market was put on hold until it’s safe. Enter: Sophie Evanoff of Vanille Patisserie. The pair teamed to organize a pop-up event in the extra space at the Lincoln Park bakery, a result of indoor dining restrictions.
“We have a unique opportunity at our business to explore possibilities for how to creatively use our extra space and collaborate with other creative entrepreneurs who need it,” says Evanoff. “We continue doing whatever we can to support other small-business owners because we didn’t get here alone and we’ll need each other to help recover what was lost from this tough year.”
Taking place throughout March, the market features twelve local women artists and vendors who bring a diverse selection of goods to the table. Think: purses and tote bags (Damsel In This Dress Designs); candles in jars, tins and vintage glassware (Gingershells Boutique); prints, jewelry and crochet (Rachie Jenn Originals); CBD and essential oil-infused wellness products (Peace Treats); baby and toddler clothing (Wolf Pup Getup); soaps and sugar scrubs (Soap Junkii); accessories and apparel made by refugee women living in Chicago (Loom).
“Both Vanille and the Handmade Market are women-owned businesses, so we decided to highlight local women artists for Women’s History Month,” says Flett, stressing the importance of supporting small businesses amid a global pandemic. “The Handmade Market has a network of hundreds of local artists and crafters and most of the shows and festivals where you would normally find them have been closed for the year. We know that a lot of the big online merchants have done great through the pandemic, but the small businesses and artists who rely on local support and personal connections with their customers have really been struggling,” she says. “Visiting the Handmade Market pop-up shop at Vanille gives customers the opportunity to support local women artists while also treating themselves to the best macarons in Chicago.”
“Our last show was February 2020,” says Flett, who looks forward to the day when they will be able to bring their full show of thirty-five-plus artists together. “We hope that can happen in the fall. While we wait for the world and the Empty Bottle to reopen, we wanted to find ways to continue to safely share the work of local artists with the community,” she adds, providing an opportunity to shop small amid freshly baked croissants, handmade chocolates and candies, luscious tarts and French macarons. As Flett puts it: “Vanille’s beautiful pastries are also handmade works of art and so the patisserie was a perfect fit for us.”
Through March at Vanille Patisserie, 2108 North Clark.
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