Venerable market highlights continued Southside renaissance
Sixteen years ago, a group of local business leaders saw an opportunity to bring new life to the then almost dormant Southside. Chattanooga residents who have moved to the city in the past decade may not even be aware that the bustling Southside district was once a near ghost-town, filled with abandoned warehouses and urban blight.
Today, however, the area in and around Main Street is filled with restaurants, art galleries, thriving businesses, a school, remodeled homes, condos and apartments, and the like. And a large part of that renaissance, it can be argued, has been due to the birth and ongoing success of the Chattanooga Market.
This weekend, the Chattanooga Market returns for its 16th season at the First Tennessee Pavilion with a two-day kick-off. Opening weekend is one of the few times during the season that the Market is open both Saturday and Sunday.
“We wanted the community to have a relaxing visit. Spreading out over the entire weekend allows for more parking availability and elbow room for the serious shoppers. Plus, it gives our vendors an opportunity to engage with their customers and offer a more personal experience,” Chris Thomas, Executive Director of Public Markets.
Visitors coming for opening weekend will find the season’s beginnings of spring produce. Rumor has it that early strawberries will be available. New this year will be fresh local trout and there will also be Wild Atlantic Salmon available. Plantings, such as herbs and sunflowers, are always a great Spring addition to any home garden.
Local food trucks will also be attending, on both the rear and side patios, a particular favorite of Market attendees. And as has been tradition for years, live music will fill the Pavilion with welcome sounds. Chattanooga’s own Sweet Georgia Sound will perform all day Saturday, while on Sunday Ryan Oyer takes the stage at 12:30 p.m., followed by The Von Wamps at 2 p.m.
Over 250 vendors are expected in all, spilling out into the street, sidewalks and grassy areas at the sides of the Pavilion. Many vendors are returning from previous years, with experience and loyal customers under their belts. The Public Market platform is also an incubator for new artisans. It allows them to try out their craft and perfect it, while the community serves as their springboard.
And the Market organizers haven’t been content to just focus on revitalizing the Southside. They are also expanding out with two new Public Market openings: the Collegedale Market and the Cambridge Square Market, both of which are scheduled to open the first week of May.
To really gauge how successful the Chattanooga Market has become, all you have to do is stroll through the surrounding parking lots and check out the license plates. Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama are all well represented, sprinkled in with plates from both Carolinas, Virginia and even as far away as Florida and Ohio.
The first official day of Spring was back on March 20th, but for many Chattanoogans, Spring really arrives with the opening weekend of the Chattanooga Market. Come on down to the Southside and enjoy.
Photo courtesy Chattanooga Market