Pop-up market supports local artists, entrepreneurs

Christine Stephenson/The Herald
Jennifer Mauntel, of Jasper, picks an item to purchase from SweetBees Studio at the pop-up market on the Downtown Square Wednesday. The Ferdinand business is one of 10 local businesses featured at the market, which will return for several more dates in June and July.


JASPER — The old Sternberg Furniture building, which has been dim and empty for a while, was bursting with chatter, color, and smells of soaps and cotton candy Wednesday evening.

Local vendors packed the storefront on the Square during the Downtown Chowdown to sell pottery, popsicles, cotton candy, bath bombs, glass-blown art and more as part of Heart of Jasper’s new pop-up market initiative.

Heart of Jasper Director Kate Schwenk said the market serves a dual purpose: to help sell the vacant building and to support local business.

“One of the main goals was to drive attraction to that building and get people in the building in hopes that the right person might walk through and be interested in buying it,” she said. “But these pop-up markets are becoming more popular in other places, so we already talked about the idea before that we wanted to give small businesses or new entrepreneurs a place to sell their products.”

Tonya and Sandy Schepers, of Craft Creations by Sandy, sat surrounded by bath bombs and soaps, wooden door signs and hand-painted bottles Wednesday.

Usually, the Otwell mother-daughter duo tries to sell around the holidays, as the hand-painted bottles are mostly decorated for occasions such as Christmas and Halloween. But when they saw a post about the pop-up market on Heart of Jasper’s Facebook page, they figured they’d give it a shot.

“It helps them get a little business, helps us get a little business,” Tonya said.

Sandy has been painting bottles, which are then filled with string lights, for more than five years now. She started because her sister-in-law made jewelry, and she wanted to start a craft of her own.

Now, Sandy gets calls all the time from people asking if she needs more bottles to decorate. She always has plenty, but she’ll never turn a donation down if it keeps them out of the landfill, she said. Over the years, she’s also started making ornaments and door hangers, and Tonya helps mostly with the bath bombs and soaps made from natural ingredients.

Business has slowed throughout the pandemic, but Sandy never stopped decorating bottles. So now she’s got an overload she wants to sell. But the business has never been about making money, she said — it’s about mother-daughter bonding time.

Across the building, April Reckelhoff of Artsie April Designs LLC, displayed her multicolored hand-blown glass designs, including plates, mirrors and photo frames.

The pop-up market is Reckelhoff’s first public event selling her pieces. She said she only sold a few items Wednesday but handed out quite a few of her business cards.

“It’s nice to at least get my name out there,” she said.

The Schnellville artist started glassblowing more than five years ago. She decided she wanted to learn from her aunt in Louisville, who always brought hand-blown earrings and other pieces to family Christmas parties.

Each piece takes as little as two days or as long as a month to make, she said. Some pieces have to be fired in her kiln, which her husband bought her for Christmas a few years ago, nearly half a dozen times.

“Basically every dollar I make, I’m putting back into making more,” she said.

Reckelhoff said she couldn’t have her business without the support of her husband, parents and family. Glass is her passion, and even if she doesn’t ever make a lot of money off of it, she’s not going to stop.

“You know, it’s like that one saying, ‘Do what you love and love what you do,’” she said.

Other businesses with the market include Muddy Pearl, selling pottery; Hoosier Blooms, selling flowers; Strasse Pops, selling popsicles; Mya’s Candy Clouds, selling cotton candy; TopKnot, selling personalized items; SweetBees Studio, selling hand-sewn items; 1 Oak Up, selling upcycled accessories; and Fern’s Crafty Creations, selling hand-sewn items.

Heart of Jasper had to ultimately turn away 15 to 20 vendors because there wasn’t enough space, Schwenk said. She hopes that in the future, if the market is successful, it can move to different locations that can include more vendors.

“If we feel like it’s worth doing again … then we can pop it up for a weekend in the fall, or a weekend in the winter, or move it to another location,” she said. “We have a few other vacant buildings in the district that it’s our goal to also sell, so we could pop it up at another place.”

The remaining dates for the market are June 19 from noon to 4 p.m., July 10 from noon to 4 p.m., July 14 from 4 to 8 p.m. and July 24 from noon to 4 p.m.

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