Ponyride Market has earned a reputation as an effective Corktown-based incubator for Detroit businesses, some 60 of which are now operating out of its facility at 1401 Vermont Street.
But while the building’s capacity can handle only so many residents, the much larger Ponyride Market Summer Series offers an opportunity for many more businesses to take advantage of Ponyride’s network, resources and connections. Although the market has been a success as a standalone event since its inception in 2011, this year marks the first time Ponyride will offer it as a monthly summer series.
The monthly market events began on May 13, with remaining dates of June 10, July 8, August 12, September 29/30, and October 14. Described as a modern flea market, it gives participating companies the opportunity to offer vintage, salvage and handmade goods, in addition to artisan food and drinks.
Not surprisingly, applications for 2017 events are already closed. Participating vendors paid $75 per event (except for the two-day September event, which costs $125), or $400 for a season pass.
One of those vendors will be MetroConfection, a Detroit-based baking company making all-natural products from scratch.
“I’m taking this as a huge opportunity,” says J. McKeown, chef and founder of MetroConfection. “I don’t know what to expect but I’m going to be very optimistic about it. We really just want to have fun, make a good impression, and also be able to connect with people and other companies.”
Summer Series gives a word-of-mouth company like MetroConfection lots of exposure and helps them toward their goal. McKeown says this sort of event is inspiring to them as far as going out and trying to succeed with their business dreams, something some people never actually fulfill.
“I know a lot of people who have entrepreneurial minds but don’t really know where to start,” McKeown says. “I think this is really an inspiration for not just us but a lot of people who are thinking about starting [a business].”
That’s exactly the sort of benefit Ponyride hopes participants glean from the Summer Series.
“We look at the market as sort of an extension of that incubation of businesses in that people who don’t necessarily work out of our space can come and sell their products at Ponyride and have access to our community,” says Erin Patten, Ponyride’s director of retail and marketing.
“Being in our markets they get to interface with customers and talk with them, meet them, learn from them.”
Patten says that Ponyride puts out an open call for applications for the market’s Summer Series, during which time they tap all their networks to source great talent. After the application process has closed, an internal review committee looks at them, sorting applicants by business type so there are a variety of vendors.
“We really try to reach a wide swath of makers across the city of Detroit,” says Patten, who emphasizes that Ponyride prioritizes local vendors.
The vendors selected to participate each get a 10’ X 10’ space and access to Ponyride’s residents and community. What each vendor does within that space is up to them.
This year’s participants include food vendors, jewelry, textiles, and clothing. Ponyride will also be hosting the Design Village for the Detroit Design Festival in September. Patten says that will basically be a large Makers Market at Ponyride.
“It [the market] definitely gives them [makers] the opportunity to showcase their work as well as lets people know there is a maker’s space where you can create your items and have this space where you can be creative and its collective,” says Detroit native Ebony Rutherford, CEO/Owner of Trish’s Garage. “A lot of times people aren’t aware that these spaces are available. They think it’s secluded. This definitely brings awareness to a broader audience.”
Rutherford, whose connection to Ponyride goes back to the beginning, has a pop-up boutique specializing in locally sourced artisan wears. She also creates her signature peplums. At her first Ponyride market she says she was able to network with both Ponyride residents and people in the community. Making a profit didn’t hurt either.
Having been a part of the previous Ponyride markets helps her select which items she’s going to sell this summer. She chooses a mixture of pieces, combining both local artists she’s used at prior markets as well as up-and-coming artists she thinks fit well with the neighborhood and community.
“It’s kind of like getting to know somebody and then once I kind of see what they wear and how we interact that’s how I pick the pieces,” Rutherford says.
Being able to connect with the Ponyride community, and Detroit on a more local level, is huge for the vendors, especially those who don’t have a Detroit store front, like Citizen Ciao.
“It [the Ponyride markets] gives us that store front and foot traffic we need to showcase our brand and tell the local community more about it,” says Roby Turner, Citizen Ciao’s creative director.
Citizen Ciao, which is based in both Los Angeles and Detroit, is a lifestyle clothing company inspired by surf culture. If you’re wondering why someone would base a company in Los Angeles and Detroit you aren’t alone. Turner says that the company was hoping to gain more market share in Detroit because they are all from here. Citizen Ciao often uses local screen printers in Detroit to make items in their “Surf in Detroit” collection ‒ one of their top sellers ‒ adding another level to their local connection.
Getting to meet with other creative minds, and collaborate and learn from them, is another reason Turner says Citizen Ciao hopes to continue being a part of the Ponyride markets.
“I like to see what new brands are coming out and what they are doing. I like to kind of pick their brains,” he laughs. “I really enjoy seeing what the local community is doing in terms of this whole renaissance of Detroit.”
“I think it brings everybody together,” he adds. “I think it will be the market to go to for the summer.”