Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the business Artzy Junkin. It has also been edited to include both owners of the Where It’s At food bus.
Though the cluster of shops tucked away from the road in Soldotna and identifiable by the bright red mushrooms dotting the yard may be small, the owners have big plans.
Susanna Evins of Mountain Mama Originals, Willow King and Krista Justice of the Where It’s At food bus, and Sue Mann of Artzy Junkin opened permanent storefronts — and a bus — on the Sterling Highway in downtown Soldotna last summer. They aimed to foster a place where community members in search of art and locally made goods could come together.
The Market, as it’s called, has expanded to include new shops at its location at 44720 Sterling Highway. To keep this momentum going, the group is focusing on forming a co-op and providing even more space and opportunities for area residents to both enjoy and create art and other handmade goods.
The property the businesses occupy has been for sale for years, but Evins and Mann plan to purchase it. The individual businesses will lease from the main property, Evins said.
“We’re wanting to preserve this property,” she said of the purchase. “It has a good feeling to it.”
The business owners have put a lot of work into developing the spot, making it a suitable place for the shops and an attractive destination for locals and visitors, Evins said. Now even more infrastructure is being planned, including a permanent stage to be debuted at Market Daze, a festival to celebrate the property’s advancement scheduled for July 21.
The festival will feature music from local artists from 1 p.m.–11 p.m. that day, and will close out with a performance by Seward-based Blackwater Railroad Company. Where It’s At will be open that day to serve up fresh, local foods, King said. The celebration also features a beer and wine garden and “sip and paint” at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
There will also be plenty of activities for kids, including a bounce house and archery put on by Sportsman’s Warehouse, King said.
The festival is a way to celebrate the overall goal of the group and the Market — a place for creators and customers to come together and enjoy locally made art and other goods, Evins said.
“I feel like this is a viable thing that is receiving pretty broad community support,” King said.
Mann, too, said that support for the growing Market has been positive.
“The feedback that I get from everybody is that they’re so excited to be on board,” she said. “People are longing for this.”
Evins and her fellow business owners have other goals for the future as well. They are looking into becoming a nonprofit, she said, and would like to build small studios on the property. These could be used to host classes on pottery, canning, dyeing and other skills, possibly taught by instructors from Kenai Peninsula College, Evins said.
The studios would also be open to local artists or crafters working without a storefront, Evins said. Vendors who sell their wares at fairs or other events sometimes need a space to make them, she said.
“Our bigger scheme of it is empowering people of true knowledge, and not closing them out because of finances,” Evins said.
Mann said she is especially excited about expanding the possibilities of the Market since she knows the struggles of starting a business from home and from scratch.
“For me, I am just so excited because I know so many people like myself that started out of their garage and out of their pick up trucks,” Mann said. “It’s all for the good of our community.”
A community hall behind Where It’s At is already being used for just such purposes. King said the hall is open for anything from groups meetings to a mom in need of a place to nurse, and she’s excited about the prospect of more people getting to use it.
“It’s just that the community is so hungry for opportunities to engage and get a little more out of their community life,” King said.
For more information about Market Daze, call Mountain Mama Originals at 907-395-7010.