February has no doubt been one of the coldest and roughest months so far and it’s safe to say that there were some winners and losers. Amongst those that felt the bitter side of February was Shwick Market.
Shwick Market promised three incredible events: The Love Market, Battle of the Bands and The Black Market. However, that promise fell short when both the Battle of the Bands and The Black Market were canceled abruptly.
So, what exactly prompted this response? According to folks who attended The Love Market, attendance is just one of many things that had a lot to do with it.
“The Love Market LITERALLY made my heart hurt,” wrote local resident and longtime supporter of Shwick Market, Frank Davis. “Remember those ASPCA commercials with Sarah McLachlan music and a sad video of abused and desperate puppies and kittens? That was the vendor vibe there: sad dirty location, zero decoration or production work from Shwick, and a group of vendors desperately trying to get ANY sale.”
Davis, a food zine publisher and small-batch soda maker in Bushwick, attended the market with his wife as a customer. He had initially looked into Shwick in hopes to secure space as a vendor. However, after voicing his concerns on the pricing for space, he was blocked from all of Shwick’s social media accounts.
He had been following Shwick for about five years because they started in his neighborhood. Having attended a few of their events in the past, Davis decided to venture out to see what The Love Market had to offer. He was expecting to walk into a situation that would resemble the likes of Brooklyn Flea or Ridgewood Market, but he was met with something radically different.
“This was like the saddest church garage sale ever, but one where the vendors pay $100 per day for SPACE (no table or chairs) and Shwick puts a guy on the street passing out postcards as the promotion,” said Davis.
The event, which was held on the second floor of the old Fat Albert building at 774 Broadway, boasted a DJ and vendors of all sorts, including food. While those things did happen, it didn’t seem to help turnout. According to Davis, there was very little variety in the items being sold at The Love Market, mostly fashion and jewelry and the space wasn’t very clean.
With all this negativity swirling about, Bushwick Daily reached out to Shwick Market directly to set the record straight.
Doing something like this doesn’t guarantee that it will work all the time. We put it out there in the world and hopefully people want to sign up. But it comes down to cooperation, turnout and resources. A lot goes into it and it’s not easy.
“We had 800+ rsvp’s for the Love Market, but of course that wasn’t the turnout. There were so many things that went into it and I felt we tried to do the best that we could,” said Christopher Carew, founder of Shwick Market.
The Love Market was the first event the Brooklyn-based business held in the space and as Carew pointed out, there isn’t much going on in the immediate area.
“Ultimately, we weren’t feeling confident about the turnout for Battle of the Bands and The Black Market. We had a lot of vendors who applied but didn’t follow through. Because it didn’t seem like the event wouldn’t turn out how we wanted it to, we decided that it would be best to cancel,” explained Carew.
However, when asked about the vendors at The Love Market, Davis mentioned that many of the vendors present were people of color. This made him question whether those were the same vendors who could have signed up for The Black Market, “If so, that to me indicates that many of the vendors at The Love Market thought The Black Market wouldn’t be worth it.”
When asked about promotion for the event, Carew responded, “we tried to advertise for the Love Market as much as possible. We made flyers and posters, but the event was held on the second floor. We didn’t have time or resources to make the space inviting. We also didn’t get enough vendors. We’d love to have a spot that we can call our own, but we don’t, and readying new spaces can be really difficult.” According to Carew, they’ve had venue issues for some time now.
In addition to location, it seemed there were several other factors that resulted in a failed Love Market. In the midst of all of this, Shwick had been looking for a space for their outdoor food markets and are hoping to put more energy and time into making it better than the cancelled events in the past.
“Doing something like this doesn’t guarantee that it will work all the time. We put it out there in the world and hopefully people want to sign up. But it comes down to cooperation, turnout and resources. A lot goes into it and it’s not easy. I wish rent was cheaper, that would make things a lot easier,” said Carew.
After a long conversation over the things that he could have gone back in time to fix, Carew sighed, “This has taught us a lot. Right now, we will take time to focus singularly on the outdoor food market. We’re hoping to make this an event that not only we would be proud of, but the community would be proud of as well.”
Although vendors and customers alike have experienced frustration with Shwick, they haven’t given up faith in them.
“I have an extensive background in event planning and hospitality operations management, I would offer to volunteer for free if they would stop being so sketchy,” said Davis.
“We walked in and saw minority owned vendors who deserved some help and weren’t getting any. Bushwick deserves better, vendors and buyers alike deserve better, and I believe they can do better. That was my wife and I’s take away,” he added.
The silver lining in all of this is that spring is approaching and with it the opportunity to start fresh. Hopefully Shwick can leave the bitterness of February behind them and bloom with the flowers.
Cover image from the Bushwick Daily archives.