Winter Marketplace

Winter Marketplace

Trinity Carey

Buying locally and starting small businesses is on the rise in the 906. Local entrepreneurs are looking for different ways to get their products on the market and to the community. The Winter Marketplace offers a location for home-based businesses to vend their products during the colder months.

On Saturday, April 1 three local vendors set up booths to share their homemade goods with shoppers and those passing by in the Masonic Square. The Winter Marketplace allows small businesses to start and expand themselves, said Davin Makela, owner of Davin’s Chocolates and vendor at the Winter Marketplace.

“It’s a good test bed. It kind of incubates business, allows people to feel how the market will react to certain products and ideas,” Makela said. “Instead of investing a ton of money you can just do small booths, see how people like your product, if they’ll buy it.”

Makela creates unique lines of chocolate bars, such as a bar using local maple syrup as a sweetener, an espresso bar equal to five cups of coffee and a PB & J bar, he said. He attends the Winter Market and Farmer’s Market because it’s a good opportunity for him to promote his over 150 varieties of chocolate bars and have the community sample his new flavors.

“It’s also just a good way to meet people. I’ve met so many people just working these markets and it allows for good networking possibilities and also good idea generators,” he said.

Marquette is a great area for vendors, because it’s the largest city in the U.P. with a lot more diversity than the surrounding areas. The community also offers many resources and growth opportunities for small businesses, Makela said.

“Just the whole mentality with Marquette, it’s kind of open-mindedness. People are willing to try new things, you also get a lot of tourism throughout the summer so that also helps,” he said. “I think the overall attitude in Marquette is just something that you don’t see everywhere. It’s kind of on that borderline of a bigger city, but it has that small-town vibe and the atmosphere. It’s a good entrepreneurial-type environment to start a business in.”

Summer visitors bring business to the area and opportunities like the Winter Marketplace offer a unique venue for local artisans to display their goods, said Dan Choszczyk, a bladesmith and owner of Black River Blades.

“It’s a venue that I wouldn’t have ordinarily. I’m a small independent bladesmith and I really, honestly don’t have a lot of places that I can put my work out,” Choszczyk said. “I have tried putting my work in other shops and so forth, it’s displayed poorly and it’s not represented very well.”

Choszczyk, who uses locally-sourced and repurposed materials such as hockey skates for his handcrafted knives, said by displaying his own work he gets to see who’s interested in his product and interact with those people.

“This kind of industry is important to individuals. It’s a way of connecting more one-on-one. I’m not a mass producer because people can come and see what I’ve put time and energy and heart, whatever you want to say into it,” Choszczyk said. “Now I’ve got repeat customers, people who keep coming back to me and also recommending me, so it’s just a great area.”