A huge part of C-U’s charisma comes from its plethora of thriving small businesses that provide immense community value, along with some pretty cool products and services, if I do say so myself.
From independent restaurants and boutiques offering original takes on cuisine and fashion to local farms providing fresh, delicious produce, Champaign-Urbana is teeming with unique, successful and valuable small business.
The Urbana Holiday Market, running every Saturday through December 20th, brilliantly combines the festivities of the holiday season with the community’s fondness for local businesses.
Patrons can shop for anything from fresh kale and goat cheese to homemade soaps to dog treats, and the best part is everything is locally made or grown.
Jessica Snyder, events coordinator for the Urbana Business Association, which coordinates the Holiday Market each year, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about all the market has to offer the C-U community this holiday season. Hopefully, we can convince you to mix up your holiday gift shopping routine this year and buy local!
Smile Politely: For people that are unfamiliar with the Urbana Holiday Market, can you tell us a little about its goals and what it has to offer the local community?
Jessica Snyder: The Holiday Market is a seven-week, winter season indoor farmers market. This season began on November 8th, and it will run every Saturday from now until December 20, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. inside Lincoln Square. It’s sort of an extenuation of Urbana’s Market at the Square, the outdoor farmers market in the summer. I think there was a desire, from vendors and shoppers alike, to have a place to buy and sell goods in the offseason and thus, the Holiday Market was born. It offers a centralized place for members of the community to gather and shop at local businesses for everyday goods like produce, meats, cheeses and other foods, as well as handmade crafts and gift items like jewelry, candles, knit and crochet items and so much more.
SP: What, if anything, is new for the Holiday Market this year? Any new, exciting vendors, promotions or events?
Snyder: New this year, we’ll be host to a blood drive in conjunction with Community Blood Services of Illinois. The next one is scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, December 6th. We’ve also lined up a few performances for December, one with Community Center for the Art’s Audacious String Band, and another with Urbana Middle School’s jazz band. Otherwise, it’s much the same as last year, only bigger and better!
SP: What are some of the more unique aspects of the Holiday Market? Why should someone buy holiday gifts from the market as opposed to going to the mall or other larger vendors?
Snyder: I think what makes your holiday shopping experience different at the market, as opposed to shopping in a mall, is that you’re able to meet and talk with the people who’ve made and grown these items. You can form a direct relationship with the producer of these goods, which you just can’t do in a big box store. A lot of these vendors put their heart and soul into their products and it truly shows. They’ll love to talk to you about how their items are made and the work and love put into them. You can find really unique and beautiful things at the market that would be difficult to find anywhere else. Additionally, when you shop at the market, you’re supporting small, local businesses. That money stays put in our community and strengthens our local economy. What could be better than that?
SP: What are some of your favorite or must-see/must-buy items from the Market?
Snyder: While I think all of our vendors are a must-see (and I’m not biased either, they all bring really great stuff each week!), my personal favorites are:
Simple Little Stitches — I custom ordered a hat from them and it hasn’t left my head yet this winter.
Blue Moon Farm — Their produce is amazing. I especially love their beets and kale.
Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery — Goat cheese. Enough said.
Wright Family Products — All of our soaps/body care vendors are terrific, but I recently bought some face lotion from Wright Family Products, and it’s a total game changer.
Ascendent Instruments — He’s the one that makes musical instruments out of cigar boxes and the like, but he also does repairs. He did a fantastic job fixing my guitar.
The Cousin’s Dog Biscuit Company — My dog loves their treats.
SP: How has the Holiday Market grown in the past years?
Snyder: This is the twelfth season of the market, and it has grown considerably over the course of the decade. From what I understand, in the beginning, it was quite small and only occupied one wing of Lincoln Square. Now, all of the mall’s hallways are filled to capacity with vendors — as many as 70 unique vendors each week. As it’s grown throughout the years, the word has spread and more and more people come out to shop the market each year.
All photos courtesy of Jessica Snyder.