Considering the City: The Made in Erie Marketplace

Category:  Community
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015 at 8:59 AM
Considering the City: The Made in Erie Marketplace  by Civitas Members Lisa Austin, Stephen Sonnenberg, and Laurel Swartz
Contributed photo

First Marketplace (2013)

Civitas rented the Masonic Temple’s Camelot Room, hired a designer to create a logo, printed cards, located vendors, booked a chef, signed musicians, found a security guard, and alerted the media. The first Made in Erie Marketplace succeeded in putting locally-made products into the hands of Erie shoppers, transferring over $4,000 into the pockets of entrepreneurs, and successfully establishing itself as a replicable event.

Second Marketplace (2014)

The next year, Civitas hoped to hand the project over to an organizer with the passion to make it her own. Stephanie Westley, a crafter, art historian, and Edinboro alumnus, agreed to organize the event. With the continued sponsorship of Civitas and two new supporters – Edinboro University Foundation and the Start-Up Incubator – the 2014 Marketplace was underway. Westley described it as “an opportunity for local businesses – most without a bricks-and-mortar location – to sell their work.” The 2014 event draw even larger crowds and, reportedly, over $6,000 in sales. 

Third Marketplace (2015)

After Westley relocated to Texas late last summer, Civitas searched for a new organizer. Paige Bosnyak, a Project Manager at Bayfront East Side Taskforce (BEST) agreed to take charge. Jeremy Bloeser, the Director of BEST, allowed Bosnyak to manage the Marketplace as a part of her duties, thus providing in-kind financial support for the project. When Bloeser was asked why he helped to create the 2015 Marketplace, he commented that it “brings people into the neighborhood” and helps to “break down stigmas” about “the City and the east side.” 

In her Erie Times-News essay about the Marketplace, Bosnyak cited a study which determined that for every $100 spent at a chain store, only $43 stayed in the local economy; while locally-owned business allowed the economy to capture $68 of each $100. 

Bosnyak scheduled the Marketplace on Small Business Saturday, and extended the event from three to eight hours. She moved the Marketplace to a smaller, donated venue on Parade Street and arranged free use of the Polish Falcons parking lot. The new ground-floor location and two sets of doors allowed 500 shoppers to move through the crowded, but well-lighted rooms. 

Varied Vendors

This year’s Marketplace featured first-timers who’d never sold a thing, and experienced crafters with elaborate displays. 

Pauline Snyder, who was selling her work for “the first time ever,” started her “new venture” by purchasing molds, mixing cement, and casting and painting “concrete garden décor.” Mary Orsini’s knit scarves evolved from a hobby she took up while immobilized with a broken leg last winter. Fiber artist Mary Snyder commented that in Erie, “art is an integral part of local culture.” 

Jess Gabbard’s chainsaw carvings of animal heads, jumping fish, and walking sticks attracted admiration. Erie photographer Marshall Blount offered prints of Erie scenes from Dobbin’s Landing to the McBride Viaduct. Blount commented that the event was “fantastic … for the community” because this kind of shopping experience isn’t “offered on Peach Street.” 

Erie County Poet Laureate, Cee Williams, founders of Poets’ Hall and Poets’ Hall Press, did such a brisk sale of chapbooks that he needed to restock early in the event.

Jennifer Terry, of Rags and Old Iron, sold candles surrounded in vintage prints of moons and anatomical studies of hearts, along with a series of Victorian-inspired Krampus ornaments. Jessica Stadtmueller presented sewn objects including her Blackwood Cottage series of “curious creatures and intriguing dolls.”

Near the front door, two members of the new Erie Vegan and Vegetarian Society shared recipes and collected donations. In the back room, Fran D’Santi, creator of the Pennello “snarl-free” brush was busy with two assistants demonstrating techniques and selling box after box of her locally manufactured product. She commented that “sales [were] going very well.”

Mioshee and Tenise Greer displayed their Dragonfly Lake Scents products, such as fragrant soaps and all-natural deodorant. Sarah Whiteman’s pottery included standard size bowls with dramatic glazing. Most compelling were her toy-sized ceramic pitchers – perfect for a dollhouse.

Carol Comstock’s popular pendant necklaces and ornaments embraced a contemporary spirituality with “finger mazes” in bronze. Josh Fall’s “hobby” of twisting silver wire around gemstones like Ethiopian Opal, Brazilian Tumaline, and Tanzanian Tanzanite, created organically-inspired pendants.

DZ offered one-of-a-kind necklaces and earrings fabricated from the metal mechanical parts from analog wrist watches, or from glass fragments of vintage NYC traffic lights. Jenny Andrea created child-friendly items including a Mixed Up Zoo coloring book that featured a “Giraffelant.”

Brad Shuffstall, a recent graduate from Edinboro University, said he had a “great time” selling his functional wooden objects. Shoppers scooped up a $300 table, and much less pricey bowls, cutting boards, and lidded boxes fabricated from scraps of local and imported woods.

Fourth Marketplace (2016)

Bosnyak, Bloeser and BEST have agreed to host the 2016 Made in Erie Marketplace on Saturday, November 26, 2016. The location will be announced on Facebook. Any vendors interested in participating should message Paige Bosnyak on the Made in Erie Marketplace Facebook page; or email her at  

We at Civitas are proud to add the Made in Erie Marketplace to the list of successful projects and organizations we have initiated to help Erie become a thriving, safe, and happy City.

Erie’s self-taught urban critic, Stephen Sonnenberg, co-founded Civitas with Laurel Swartz and Lisa Austin in 2004. Swartz organizes and focuses the expansive Civitas plans. Sonnenberg, who, worked for the City for 30 years and studied Erie’s built environment at night (from the back of a trash truck) and inside almost every building in the City as a water meter reader.  Through Austin’s work as a social-sculptor, she (along with Sonnenberg, Swartz and dozens of other concerned residents, co-founded All Aboard Erie, Innovation Erie and Preservation Erie. With Sonnenberg Austin has initiated dozens of projects and events including the Made in Erie Marketplace and the Industrial Design Workshops at Blasco Library’s Idea Lab. Austin teaches three-dimensional design and Sculpture at Edinboro University. Civitas members can be reached at their website, via Facebook at CivitasErie, by leaving a message at (814) 452.8401, by emailing, and by scheduling a Friday morning meeting at the Civitas office in the Masonic Building, 32 W. Eighth St., Erie, PA. 

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