River Valley Market Reports Strong Start to 2022

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FORT SMITH — A monthly River Valley event designed to support entrepreneurs and artists has drawn large numbers of attendees to begin its second season of operation.

Lorie Robertson, director of marketing for the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, said the Chaffee Crossing Farmers and Artisans Market had 100 vendors for its May 14 season kick-off event. This shows a notable increase from the 15 confirmed vendors involved in the first market launch event. in May 2021.

Robertson expects a similar result for the next market on June 11.

“We are already over 100 vendors for June and new vendors are arriving almost daily, signing up with us,” Robertson said Tuesday.

The goal of the marketplace is to support small business owners, especially home-based businesses, and give them a platform to grow their business and determine if they want to take it to the next level. It focuses on “original, homemade, home-made art”, as well as original designs and creations. The event also features local non-profit organizations.

According to Robertson, the market offers people a reason to see development taking place in the historic Chaffee Crossing area. She noted that last year people were looking for something to do after the covid-19 pandemic, a time that has seen the creation of many home-based businesses primarily facilitated by the internet.

“With the advent of new projects that we have here, we have investors who have properties that they will lease to businesses, restaurants, retail, all types of businesses,” Robertson said. “So we hope that by providing this platform to small businesses, those ready to take it to the next level will consider talking to some of our investors who have the property to rent.”

One such development is Chaffee Crossing Barracks. Kimberly Newell of Rival CRE, based in Fort Smith, said the commercial real estate developer plans to renovate 21 empty army barracks into 125,000 square feet of mixed-use real estate. Rival CRE is in the permit phase for renovation to begin for the first of two phases of the more than $20 million project. The first phase is expected to be open between February and March 2023.

According to Robertson, two local businesses that have both been vendors at the Farmers & Artisans Market and signed leases to open a store at the barracks are Blessed Bee Bakery in Van Buren and Healing Moon Farm and Soapery in Booneville.

According to its Facebook page, Blessed Bee Bakery sells traditional baked goods and candies in addition to keto-friendly, low-carb, sugar-free, and gluten-free products. The Healing Moon Farm and Soapery Facebook page says it sells handmade soaps, farm-fresh produce and eggs.

Shawna Lonetree, owner and head baker of Blessed Bee, said she and her sister-in-law, Alex, founded the home bakery in late spring or early summer 2020. They participated in the market farmers and artisans for most of its 2021 season and has been very successful. Lonetree noted that they sold the product around three hours after the last market on May 14.

“We kind of had no expectations when we started the season in 2021, and the vibe is totally different from being in a storefront,” Lonetree said. “You’re out in the fresh air, you have customers passing by who might not necessarily walk into a storefront.”

Lonetree said she had many loyal customers through the market and made friends with some of the other vendors there.

Brady Myers said he and his wife, Caitlin Hoover, launched Healing Moon Farm and Soapery at their home in 2018. good things to say” about the degree of planning and organization behind this compared to other similar events.

Myers said their participation also created significantly greater awareness of Healing Moon among local residents.

The Farmers & Artisans Market website says the event takes place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Ellis Street on the second Saturday of each month, May through October.

Robertson said the market, which is free to visitors, features a “festival-style atmosphere” including live music, food trucks, demonstrations and activities for children and adults. The May 14 market, for example, saw the Western Arkansas Pickleball Association give free lessons and demonstrations on the eponymous sport. It also featured yoga and a fitness class.

“We have at least two live music artists in every market and we’re probably more like three on average,” Robertson said. “We may even add a second stage just because the market is so large.”

Each market in a given season also has a different theme that loosely dictates the types of activities, demonstrations and other things visitors will be able to partake in, according to Robertson. The theme for the June 11 event is “My City is a Fort.” The featured activity will be a cardboard fort building contest for children ages 5-12.

After “My City is a Fort”, the Farmers & Artisans Market will take place with the following dates and themes:

• July 9: American pie

• August 13: summer dog days

• September 10: good times in rock

• October 8: Oktoberfest

Russ and Jane Emory meet other members of the Little Bear Combat Assault Helicopter Company, a military company that was together during the Vietnam War, and their partners Wednesday, May 25, 2022, outside the Chaffee Barbershop Museum at Chaffee Crossing in Barling. The monthly Chaffee Crossing Farmers and Craftsmen’s Market will host its second edition of the year on June 11 with an event titled ‘My Town is a Fort’. Visit nwaonline.com/220529Daily/ for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)
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