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Good Trade Makers Market Aims to Connect Independent Vendors With Customers — and One Another


Published November 30, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 30, 2022 at 8:49 p.m.

The Good Trade Makers Market in Providence, R.I. - COURTESY OF CARLY RAE BRUNAULT
  • Courtesy Of Carly Rae Brunault
  • The Good Trade Makers Market in Providence, R.I.

This year, Chittenden County has no shortage of holiday markets, where shoppers can buy directly from artists, craftspeople and other makers. But a new market joining the mix aims to expand shoppers' options, build connections across state lines and inspire some philanthropic fun.

Good Trade Makers Market, an event born last year in Rhode Island, brings nearly 100 small independent vendors to Hula in Burlington on Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4. While listening to a playlist of vendors' favorite songs, patrons can shop for everything from handcrafted knives and cast-iron pans to candles and illustrations. Between purchases, they can play a quick game of Plinko and sip a complimentary beer, cocktail or nonalcoholic beverage.

Cofounder Robin Dionne called the market "a really fun party. It's family friendly. It's a positive, special room, and we [will] work hard to make sure that remains true."

Half of the vendors will come from other northeastern states and beyond. "As a small business," cofounder BJ Mansuetti said, "sometimes it's hard to break out of your own city and your own demographic and grow in an organic and natural way." One aim of Good Trade is "to help with cross-pollination and help makers meet new customers."

The market is the brainchild of Mansuetti, 36, and Dionne, 41, of Cranston, R.I. Mansuetti is a former brand director for Narragansett Beer, and Dionne is a communications professional with experience in the adaptive reuse of old buildings. They met while planning the RI VegFest vegan festival, which premiered in February 2020, and were married by the end of that year.

Mansuetti and Dionne share an affinity for community event planning. "My heart has always been with small businesses," Mansuetti told Seven Days.

During the pandemic, the couple were dismayed to see small businesspeople struggling. "There weren't a lot of holiday markets, and many of these businesses made up to 80 percent of their [annual] sales at [those markets]," Mansuetti said.

In 2021, the couple held the inaugural Good Trade Makers Market in Providence, R.I., featuring 95 artisans from 16 states. According to Mansuetti, that event drew more than 5,000 attendees and $300,000 in revenue for the vendors over two days.

Matt Innarelli of Wild Wood & Epoxy in Wilmington, one of the Vermont-based vendors at that event, was impressed with the crowd of shoppers. "It was really packed," he said. "People came from all over."

This year, Dionne and Mansuetti again held Good Trade Makers Market in Providence in November and will bring it to Burlington for the first time. They said they are exploring the possibility of expanding to other cities, but it would have to "be the right fit."

"The Vermont small business community is so supportive of each other," Mansuetti said. "They really champion each other and want to see each other succeed."

Innarelli will be at Good Trade Makers Market in Burlington this year, as will Narin MacDonald, 37, of Narin M. Knives, making his first foray into selling goods at a market.

During the pandemic, the Monkton resident made the transition from a career as a full-time chef to being a full-time father and part-time bladesmith. So far, he has been fulfilling individual custom knife orders, but he has built up an inventory and hopes to grow his business by participating in the new market. "It's a giant experiment for me," MacDonald said.

Shoppers at the Good Trade Makers Market in Providence, R.I. - COURTESY OF CARLY RAE BRUNAULT
  • Courtesy Of Carly Rae Brunault
  • Shoppers at the Good Trade Makers Market in Providence, R.I.

Böswellness cofounder Jamie Garvey and her husband, Mahdi Ismael Ibrahim, are also testing a new market for their products. Their Colchester-based business, which distills and sells fair trade and certified-organic frankincense and myrrh, doesn't have a large local market.

"We've been around for 18 years, and it feels like nobody in Vermont knows who we are," Garvey said. "So we thought it'd be good to get our business out there. I'm going in with no expectations, and I hope I'm pleasantly surprised."

Eduardo Donoso, 35, is a Montpelier-based artist and shoe-fitting specialist at Williston's REI who moved to Vermont from Chilean Patagonia. He and his wife, Jess Young, will be at the market with their business, Soijen, offering nature-inspired T-shirts, totes, posters, cards and other items that celebrate adventure or feature Vermont townscapes.

Donoso has found other Vermont makers supportive. "This community is amazing," he said. "I wish we had a community that supports artists in my other community, in Chile."

A few of the other Vermont vendors are Zobird Pottery of Burlington, Vermont Copper of Berkshire, Meadow Lane Macrame of South Hero and Mad River Botanicals of Waitsfield.

Among the out-of-state vendors are TwoScentsByBri, a soy wax candle maker in New Jersey; the Blank Space Collection, which makes embroidery and illustrations in New Hampshire; and Strange Ways, a patches and pins company in Connecticut. From just over the border in Massachusetts will come glass artist Kanch by Kolika, Catie Curtis Pottery, and children's clothing and accessories company Hedgehog Belly Designs. Spice-blends maker Ocean State Pepper and cast-iron cookware maker Nest Homeware are from Dionne and Mansuetti's home state of Rhode Island.

Vendor selection is difficult for Dionne and Mansuetti because they're so entrenched in the small business community. "We were rejecting our own best friends to make room for others," Dionne said.

They work to include businesses owned by members of the LGBTQ community and people of color, she added: "We are looking for a mix of super-established businesses and those that could become established if someone just gave them a chance."

Dionne and Mansuetti aim to make the market enjoyable for patrons, but "90 percent of our effort goes into making this a fun and welcoming event for the vendors," Mansuetti said. The couple reserved blocks of rooms in local hotels for the makers and will host after-parties for them to network and socialize. They invited all vendors to select songs for the event playlist. "Every piece of the event we want to feel like an extension of the people in the room," Mansuetti said.

Vendors have donated prizes for Plinko, the peg-and-disk game popularized by the TV show "The Price Is Right," which shoppers can play for $5 while supporting a local nonprofit. This year's recipient of the proceeds will be the Vermont Professionals of Color Network, a nonprofit that works to advance the prosperity of Black, Indigenous and other people of color.

"They are not only making sales," Mansuetti said of the vendors, "but they are making a difference for the communities they are participating in."

Hula events director Chloe King said the new market is a good fit for the coworking and event space overlooking Lake Champlain. "Hula is meant to support entrepreneurs, and this was a way of doing that with a more creative and artistic makerspace than we typically get to tap into."

Last year, Hula started its own small market for its resident companies. This year, the Huladay Market, on December 17, will feature more than 50 vendors.

Other Chittenden County holiday markets this year include the Women's Festival of Crafts, running virtually through December 16; the BTV Winter Market in Burlington's City Hall Park, running through December 23; the Winooski Holiday Pop-Up Shop on December 1; the Vermont Holiday Market at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction on December 3 and 4; and the Hotel Vermont Holiday Market in Burlington on December 10.

Kara Alnasrawi, Burlington's director of business and workforce development and director of the Church Street Marketplace, said her office was glad to have Good Trade Makers Market join the city's slate of holiday markets.

"We're very much of the philosophy of the more, the merrier," Alnasrawi said. "These markets are an important piece in our community ... [They give] these entrepreneurs or micro-businesses access to a customer base that they wouldn't normally have."

Max Jennings, 35, is a physical education teacher in Montpelier who makes bow ties, bandannas, bags and other apparel as Meet Max VT. He said he normally sells at small markets in central Vermont, such as the Central Vermont Queer Craft Fair on December 17, because Burlington feels like "the big city."

This year, though, he'll be at Good Trade Makers Market. Jennings noted that one of the best parts of sharing his products is experiencing shoppers' reactions and encouragement firsthand.

"I spend a lot of time by myself, sewing," Jennings said. "When you go to a market, people ask you, 'You made these?' and I say, 'Yes, with my own hands.'"

The original print version of this article was headlined "In Good Spirit | A new holiday market aims to connect independent vendors with customers — and one another"

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