Backyard Market Becomes Impromptu Business Incubator

Natalie and BJ Ciper watched patiently from their Main Street vista as their downtown neighbors re-opened one by one. Owners of the popular craft beer bar Ordinance One, the husband and wife duo had big plans for 2020 that did not include a worldwide pandemic. Immediately, they were thrown into a sea of red tape. Restrictions from the State prevented on-site consumption, but as phase II neared, the Cipers once again grew optimistic. After months of pushing to-go sales, restaurants and diners were finally permitted to open dine-in capacity to 50%. The bars and breweries, however, were left holding the bag.

The Cipers opened Ordinance One in 2018 and immediately built a following. During the early months of the pandemic they watched sales hit rock bottom, grab a jackhammer, and keep plummeting. “We knew right then that nobody was coming to save us,” says Natalie. Their customers were staying safe at home, but they wanted to be there for them when it was safe to return. “We had some creative ideas kicking around, but live music was working well and we were hitting our goals,” explains Natalie, “all of a sudden we were pulling these half-baked ideas from the oven and throwing them at the wall to see what sticks.”

Standing out in the New Normal

The Cipers tried out all sorts of promotions. They partnered with neighbors for outdoor music in Railroad Square. The brought in an array of food trucks, and rented out their space as a venue. When Dented Keg opened, they worked to cross-promote one another.

Ultimately, the Mini Makers Market became O1’s signature event. Every Saturday night, a group of artisan vendors gathered in O1’s backyard to show off their crafts to passersby. Starting in July with a small handful of vendors, the market grew to attract a regular rotation with 6-7 weekly vendors. With the addition of food trucks and the cooler weather, the Mini Makers Market began to flourish. “At its peak we has over ten vendors in our backyard,” Natalie says, “but the best part is seeing the vendors grow. Some started off at our market without any kind of social media and now they’re using it to advertise.”

Business Breeds Business

In a year where small businesses struggled and home-based entrepreneurs thrived, the Mini Makers Market became the perfect space for partnership. Vendors like The Mango Tree Garden and Three Quartz Moon even used the market to launch permanent storefronts.

The Mango Tree Garden has taken root at their new new brick-and-mortar location on Little Road.

Three Quartz Moon now has a permanent set-up on display at the Downtown Hair Lounge. In addition to crystals, candles, sage, and tarot cards, Ashley also provides insight into each product’s function. She is a consummate expert on the spiritual plane and here to restore your positive energy.