It was a significant milestone for the downtown core. An outdoor marketplace held one night a month has drawn 50,000 visitors to the downtown area since it began last spring. Jaxsons Night Market presented by Community First Credit Union, celebrated its return to Hemming Park on Thursday, September 17th with fresh, sustainably grown and artisan food producers, food trucks, a craft beer garden and fashion trucks hosted downtown.
Opened on the heels of One Spark in April 2014, Jaxsons Night Market has grown into the most exciting event held monthly downtown since Art Walk began over 10 years ago. Founders of Jaxsons Night Market sought to create a signature reoccurring downtown event to complement Downtown Vision’s monthly Art Walk.
“Art Walk consistently generates evening foot traffic into the doors of merchants downtown. Many of those same merchants have championed expanding Art Walk into a bimonthly occurrence,” founder Mike Field says. “The night market was able to fill that need for a second programmed event that generates foot traffic downtown. But instead of replicating Art Walk, we’ve created our own niche by showcasing local artisanal food producers.”
The market’s focus on showcasing unique and locally sourced foods in a casual, social setting follows specific characteristics that have fueled the resurgence of downtowns nationwide. “The typical Jaxsons Night Market customer is college educated, between the ages of 24 and 42 and lives in neighborhoods near downtown like Riverside, San Marco and Springfield. They have disposable income and spend a large portion on food away from home. To be able to connect with them and earn their loyalty early on is essential in the evaluation of whether your business plan is sound, and taking on the costs of expansion is worth the risk,” says Field.
The market also serves as a catalyst for the growth of locally owned small businesses. It also allows established businesses to test out new concepts for expansion plans. Such vendors as Hobys Honey, Southern Roots, FreshJax, Vagabond CoffeeFreshJaxSouthern RootsHobys Honey and Super Food and Brew have opened brick-and-mortar locations since participating in the market and larger businesses like Black Sheep Restaurant and The French Pantry are getting involved to test the waters for future development.
“We curate the market with locally owned small businesses that have both distinctive products and the capacity to expand their operations. By getting their products in front of a large targeted audience, we are helping them to test the viability of future business expansion in the urban core of our city,” Field says. “We give people a great reason to come downtown to grab a meal, do some grocery shopping and enjoy a local craft beer after work while also providing a casual atmosphere to socialize with friends and listen to live music. People are drawn to urban environments that are filled with ‘third places’: the places where you spend time away from home or work like coffee shops, bars and restaurants where you can network with friends and meet interesting new people.”
Jaxsons Night Market is held the third Thursday of every month from 5:30 pm until 9 pm in Hemming Park.