Sunday, May 19, 2024

Columbia City Night Market Creates Community Through Music, Dining And Shopping

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Vendor tents line the streets where the Columbia City Night Market is held on April 20, 2024. Columbia City Night Market is a monthly event put on by Peace Peloton, a 501c(3) nonprofit that says it seeks to support economic advancement and community engagement. (Photo by Evan Morud)

By Evan Morud, The Seattle Medium

On the third Saturday of every month from 6-10 p.m., Columbia City residents and visitors from afar emerge for an evening of commerce, cuisine and community gathering at 37th Avenue South between South Hudson and South Edmonds streets.

The Columbia City Night Market is organized year-round by Peace Peloton, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established in 2020. Beginning in December 2020 with under 20 vendors, the market has grown over time, with the largest markets reaching approximately 75 vendors. 

“Peace Peloton’s mission is to support the accelerated success of businesses with Black owners and Black entrepreneurs,” said executive director Reginald “Doc” Wilson. “We are very intentional about staying focused on our mission, but not to the exclusion of all others. It is an experience that brings the community together.”

Peace Peloton’s night market hosts a variety of vendors, both returning and new, from all backgrounds. Items for sale at a recent market included boba tea, quesabirria tacos, barbecue, empanadas, books, artworks, body care products, handcrafted jewelry and more.

“I want people to come here and have a really enjoyable shopping and entertainment experience, but I also want vendors who don’t have a brick and mortar store to have a launching pad for them to grow their businesses,” Wilson said.

Many vendors who participate return to the market monthly. Driving factors behind vendors’ choices to return include a supportive space to foster new business concepts, increasing economic opportunity through community connections, and the overall atmosphere of Peace Peloton’s market.

“It’s a great place to launch your business idea and it’s a great place to see what that idea morphs into,” said Victor Lopez of VILOS, a business that sells sterling silver jewelry, headwear and fine furnishings. “Everyone is supportive.”

Shelton Stile serves boiled peanuts at the Columbia City Night Market on April 20, 2024, in Seattle. Stile currently sells 19 flavors of boiled peanuts such as Rosemary Caribbean Jerk, Lexi Pumpkin Spice and Bald Eagle Buffalo Ranch along with snow cones and, in the winter, hot soups. (Photo by Evan Morud)

Shelton Stile of South 2 West Boiled Peanuts began participating in the market during its early stages a few years ago. Stile agreed that the market has been an important part of their business launch since winter of 2021. 

“I got involved because it was a calling,” Stile said. “We’re pioneering boiled peanuts and our goal is to become the Baskin-Robbins of boiled peanuts.”

Many vendors said other companies encouraged them to join the market, describing it as a supportive environment where businesses look out for each other compared to other markets where vendors may feel competition to make sales.

“A peloton is a group of cyclists who, through drafting, aid each other’s success,” Wilson said. “That’s what I want people to get about this market; it is a collaborative effort in a peaceful environment where everyone helps each other succeed.”

The night market found its current location after receiving an invite to host on one of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s “Healthy Streets.” As part of that, a permit was granted for one year with no fees.

Eduardo Del Valle of Texier Chocolate, who has participated in the market for almost a year, said he averages between $500 and $700 in sales per market appearance. “So far, I think this has been one of the best markets I have been doing in this area,” said Del Valle.

Repeat customers return to the market, helping provide some vendors with a stable base to expand upon.

“Last year, I sold a lot of lip gloss and body yogurt. A lot of people would come back every month to see if I was here to get more,” said Shaunyce Omar of Queens ‘N’ Things. “It really gave me a customer base.”

Dan McMullen of DanDans Taste of Street said that about 40% of his customers are returners to the market. Columbia City Night Market is the only market McMullen participates in.

Wilson said he has had success helping businesses grow beyond the market, even helping some land their products on grocery store shelves.

“Out of the market was born what’s now called Rooted – Growth Accelerator, our business accelerator program,” Wilson said. “Two years ago I invited 11 vendors from the market to this program and they met with the PCC Community Markets procurement team. From those 11 vendors, seven of those vendors now have their products not just on PCC store shelves but other store shelves, like Safeway and QFC.”

Something that sets Peace Peloton’s market apart from others is the market’s nighttime atmosphere, energy and diverse crowd. The night markets feature live music and the storefronts of vendors are illuminated by lights come nightfall. 

“I really like how they’ve attracted a crowd that is more diverse than Columbia City and the surrounding area,” said McMullen. “Everything that you could generally say that you like about Seattle, this market draws all of it and then some.”

“Columbia City is a great location. It’s really diverse in this neighborhood and people are coming right out of their houses and are walking down the street,” said Omar. “It’s pretty cool. They have live music, a beer garden, and the vibe is just right.”

To find out more about Peace Peloton, visit their website at www.peacepeloton.com

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