A Day at the Oceanside Sunset Market

 

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By LaTara Holloway

LaTara Holloway is an AUM student and long-time contributor to the AUMnibus. She is completing her degree in Communication and Theatre from Oceanside, California, where she now lives with her husband and son.

There were always a few events held throughout the year that brought people out for an enjoyable night in Montgomery, such as the Southern Makers Market, The Holiday Market and the Alabama National Fair among others. Although fun to attend, they were always spaced too far apart.

Here in Oceanside there’s a weekly event that the locals love to go to called the Sunset Market.

The Sunset Market is held every Thursday night and offers some of the best that the city has to offer. It’s a great way to get out of the house with the family while experiencing the diverse makeup of the city. There’s a wide range of international foods to sample from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and even New Zealand. Craft vendors offer a variety of items as well, from wooden roses, paintings and clothing. Although most people are here to have a good time and fill their stomachs, the vendors are focused on one thing –selling.

“I usually sell these for $35, but for you, I’ll make it $30,” Marvin Orozco says. We’ve been talking for less than two minutes and he has already offered me a deal. Orozco is selling handmade sandals and handbags imported from Indonesia for Blovely Sandals. He’s caught me staring at the sandals, which he tells me, are made from shoe laces and recycled compressed tires for the soles. They come in different styles and bright colors.

“They are cute,” I say. “I really like those.”

“They like you, too” he laughs, still pushing for a sale.

This is only his third Thursday selling at Sunset Market, but he’s been working at other festivals during his years with the company. He says that he loves being able to work around people, and I can tell. I continue empty handed.

Other artists are here selling handmade items, like Teresa Thorn of Teresa Thorn Design. Thorn has been an artist for almost 30 years, but started selling at Sunset Market after focusing on jewelry over two years ago.

“This show here, you have to give it some time to build up your clientele,” Thorn says. “They have to know that you’re here. Plus, if you have people who want to order something, they can pick it up here.” Thorn tells me that the location of the market is a big help for business. It takes about five minutes to walk from the beach to the market, which is surrounded by hotel chains and beach rentals, making a perfect destination for curious tourists or anyone hungry from playing in the ocean.

Some of the booths are extensions of actual store fronts, but I learn many of the vendors lack traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Many travel market to market throughout the week like Ousmane Thiam, owner of African Connection.

“I don’t have a shop, but I do a bunch of farmer’s markets,” says Thiam, “I go to Escondido, La Jolla, Venice Beach, a bunch of farmer’s markets, around five markets a week.”

Thiam has been at Sunset Market for three years selling handmade African jewelry made by West and North African artists, as well as himself.  As we talk, I notice many people walking by and glancing around his tent, but none step inside. It’s a habit I find myself doing while browsing around shops. Staying just close enough to see the merchandise. Avoiding eye contact. Dodging the commitment to buy.

If there was a race for profits tonight, the food vendors would easily be in the lead. Crowds are huddled around many of the vendors, patiently waiting to order or receive their food. Lots of people are weaving through the crowd while balancing multiple plates in their hands. I overhear one man tell someone he comes here every Thursday just for the Cuban Mojitos vendors. (I don’t blame him, they are amazing). I only notice a few people carrying bags from local vendors. Some of the non-food vendors are huddled in a corner of their tent trying to look busy on their phones while waiting for customers. The night has only just begun, but I think the sight is a little upsetting. Apparently, this isn’t unusual for this time of year with many of the booth owners complaining about slow business.

“Summer times are better season because there are a lot of out of towners,” Thorn says. “There’s the locals that come too, but a lot of us rely on the out of towners.”  Other vendors echo this sentiment, blaming the new school year and cooling temperatures for the drop in business. Other events may help boost sells, such as the upcoming Halloween Sunset Market and Holiday Gift Market held Thursdays in December. In the meantime, I’ll keep coming back for more mojitos and may buy a necklace or two.

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