Local ties: New tailgate market locations highlight business and community connections

STREET FOOD: The Gan Shan Market, which opened June 3 in the front yard of Gan Shan Station, offers the Charlotte Street neighborhood a new Saturday morning shopping destination.
STREET FOOD: The Gan Shan Market, which opened June 3 in the front yard of Gan Shan Station, offers the Charlotte Street neighborhood a new Saturday morning shopping destination. Photo by Jack Sorokin

From homemade sauces to local artwork, North Asheville residents now have another place to shop on Saturday mornings: A new community market debuted June 3 outside Gan Shan Station on Charlotte Street.

The market was created to give local brick-and-mortar businesses an alternative place to sell their goods, says Jade Pombrio, director of the new project. Currently, most area tailgate markets are producer-only, meaning that you can only sell things that you produce, says Molly Nicholie, program director at ASAP Connections.

“We’ve been wanting for a while for a venue to be able to sell all of our hot sauces and rib glaze,” Pombrio says. “So it kind of started as someone else wanting to sell stuff realizing that, ‘Oh, we do have a good space.’ We really wanted to make this a community restaurant and make it a place with lots of community engagement, and a market seems like a natural symptom of that.”

In addition to Gan Shan’s products, the market will feature fresh bread and pastries from The Rhu, handmade sausage and ethical meats from Intentional Swine, flowers from Paper Crane Farms and a food pantry with items from Lee’s Asian Market. Pombrio also plans to have a rotating weekly schedule of featured artists from the community.

The Gan Shan Market joins the North Asheville Tailgate Market as a Saturday morning shopping destination for North Asheville residents. Competition among markets can be challenging, Nicholie says, as markets tend to attract similar vendors and customer bases. However, Pombrio thinks the Gan Shan market will appeal to residents in the immediate Charlotte Street neighborhood and shoppers who are looking for items they can’t get at other markets.

“Coffee, pastries, breads, sauces — this is going to be more pantry items because there’s already so much produce, there are already so many farmers here,” Pombrio says.

Partnering up

Gan Shan Station isn’t the only business to embrace the idea of community farmers markets. Breweries have also jumped at the chance to offer their establishments as potential locations, with the intent of strengthening ties within the immediate community and bringing in a new set of customers.

Several months ago, Highland Brewing Co. reached out to offer its Meadow space to the Oakley Farmers Market. The market declined the offer at the time, but when its previous Fairview Road site backed out just days before the 2017 season opened, the Oakley Farmers Market relocated to Highland on May 4.

While the market has been operating at Highland for only a few weeks, Oakley Farmers Market director Lexi Binns-Craven says she has received positive feedback from both vendors and visitors.

“Our new location is a lot more child-friendly, where [vendors] can just bring their children,” Binns-Craven says. “People bring their dogs to the Meadow, and we’ve had a lot more families come. They bring their children, the kids are playing around as the parents shop, and it’s just a much more child-friendly atmosphere.”

The current popularity of farmers markets is causing people to try and align their mindsets and shopping needs with local vendors, Nicholie says. “Over the years, there have been amazing partnerships between businesses and farmers markets,” she says. “One thing I don’t think the public realizes is how farmers markets serve as an incubator for businesses — many can’t necessarily afford a brick-and-mortar building but can sell their product at a farmers market.”

Highland Brewing Co. President Leah Ashburn says the community-focused market fits well with the brewery’s community-oriented mindset and that partnerships between businesses and local grassroots efforts are important for growth.

“Asheville, in general, has so many wonderful resources for people that grow or bake or make things, and farmers markets are such a nice way for residents to connect directly to those growers,” Ashburn says. “There’s a similarity to directly connecting with brewers — they are both crafting a product, and there are individual people behind that. And those individual people that make beer and craft beer are going to be shopping and buying baked goods and produce at local farmers markets, and that just feels good.”

Local alliances

New Belgium Brewing Co. also extended an offer to house the West Asheville Tailgate Market, says market director Quinn Asteak. Although the market decided not to change locations, Asteak appreciates the offer.

“While we all think it would be great to have a market at New Belgium for so many reasons — they are a beautiful space and a great organization and there’s a lot of great appeal — we won’t be leaving Grace Baptist Church,” Asteak says. “When the conversations started, everyone’s ears perked up. There’s a lot of benefits to it; it’s definitely a thing where it would help both businesses for markets to exist at their locations.”

Despite the fact that New Belgium will not host the West Asheville Tailgate Market, the brewery remains a great place for local community involvement, says Suzanne Hackett, communications specialist at New Belgium.

“What we’ve heard from the community is that they love to meet here and see our neighbors here, which feels really good to us,” Hackett says. “Supporting farmers, for us, is more than just interacting with communities; it’s essential to our business. Without sustainable agriculture, we don’t exist, so it’s very important to us.”

The Gan Shan Farmer’s Market happens 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through midfall. The Oakley Farmers Market operates 3:30-6:30 p.m. Thursdays through the end of September at The Meadow at Highland Brewing Co. 

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a sophomore Journalism and Political Science student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is spending her summer working with the Mountain Xpress, exploring in the mountains, and drinking excessive amounts of coffee.

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