While dozens of amazing craft markets come and go in the holiday season, the longest running is often overlooked.
Every Friday and Saturday from mid-November up until Christmas Eve the simply, but aptly, named Christmas Market at the Mall takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m in Boitanio Mall. A tightly knit group of local craftsman, bakers and artisans, they offer months-long local Christmas shopping for the community.
For the market’s organizers Kay and Ross Titford, its all about engaging with the people of the community. Kay said that they took over running the market six years ago and have since seen it grow four-fold from the original ten vendors.
“Talk about small beginnings right?” Kay said, adding. “It grows every week, we allow people to come in when they can whereas a lot of the other markets are like ‘If you can’t come this day, you can’t come.”
Originally the couple became involved with the market after Kay suffered an aneurysm. Housebound and restless, a “dear friend” involved with the market invited her over to help out, getting her out of the house. When the previous organizer chose to retire, her friend and others encouraged Kay to take over organizing it.
“There were five or six of us who decided we’d still like to see the market happen because we liked it,” Kat said. “I guess I was the one who opened my mouth and then I got nominated, I don’t know how that happened.” She observed with a laugh.
As her husband, Ross had just retired from a long career with local grocery stores including Safeway and Sobeys, the couple decided it wouldn’t be too hard to manage. However, Kay and Ross didn’t want to have a hands-off organizational roll and chose to set up a concession where they sell hot dogs, buns and soup every market.
While many of the vendors present, including woodworkers, knitters and bakers, pay a small fee to help rent the space, Kay said they also welcome charity groups, like Lures for Vets, to come in and set up their tables for free.
“We don’t chare any charitable organization, if they want to come in and set up a table, that’s our gift to them,” Kay declared.
An advantage Kay feels they have over other markets is their strictly indoor setup and their ability to store their products and displays on site. With other markets and craft fairs, they need to pack up at the end, which she said must be a huge inconvenience for those vendors.
“We’ve kind of become a family here because I can say to (anyone) can you go look after my table and we all just co-operate with each other, its more like a friendship,” Kay said.
For Ross, he said the market seemed like something to do in retirement and has been something he’s enjoyed doing thanks to the people within the market’s community.
“It’s the people, it’s the people more than anything,” Ross said.
While they’ve loved doing the market these last few years, Kay and Ross said they are looking for someone new to take over for next year. Having recently hit a milestone birthday, Kay feels its time for new blood to take over organizing the market. Furthermore, as development plans for Boitanio Mall move ahead, there will likely be a need for a new venue soon.
“We’d just love to carry it on, we probably won’t be able to use this facility anymore so we’re also looking for someone who’d like to lend us their facility,” Kay said.
Most of the money they make each year at the market has gone towards paying the liability and rent at the mall. Indeed, Kay said they calculated that last year they only came out ahead “a tank of gas and a bowl of soup.”
At the end of the day, for both of them, it’s not about making money. Instead, it’s about promoting an atmosphere of friendliness, co-operation and fellowship for the whole community.