By Seth Daniel
The SoWa Market in the South End has wrapped up an extremely successful summer season, and already organizers of the venture are looking to take the next step in making the entire SoWa District the hub for art and design in all of Boston.
To that end, as the Market has wrapped up, SoWa organizers have begun solidifying their base of visitors with more events throughout the winter, and also reaching out to hotels throughout Boston to make sure concierge services know just what SoWa is and how much visitors might like it.
“We definitely want to reach a wide array of people and bring them down to SoWa,” said Bradley St. Armand of GTI Properties, which runs the market and has developed a vast majority of the SoWa District. “There is no other place in the city that has what we have here with working artists specializing in art and design.
“We really hope this is a destination for people in the city and people visiting the city,” he continued. “We want to make sure everyone knows SoWa is more than the Sunday Market. Sunday Market is fabulous and put us on the map. However, we want people to know there is much more going on aside from the Sundays. SoWa is a geographic area, but it’s also is a major area for art and design. We really want it to be known as the art and design district of Boston.”
The SoWa Market was operated this year for the first time by GTI Properties, which has always owned the land and many of the development around SoWa. GTI sees the market as a great promoter of the District and a way to support local artists and small business people selling locally-made wares. While a competing market enjoyed a matriculation of some vendors early in the summer, St. Armand said many of the vendors eventually returned to SoWa and the long-time open market ended up enjoying one of its best years ever.
That success went not only for the regular Market, but also for the expansion into adding a beer garden full of local brewers’ products, as well as special events that were creative and well-thought out during the summer and fall.
“We feel like this season was a huge success,” St. Armand said. “We were in unchartered territory having a competing market down the street, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. I think there was a bit of confusion amongst the public to begin the year, but as the season progressed the crowds grew stronger and it ended up being one of our best ever. We made a concerted effort to create a family friendly atmosphere that offered something for everyone – including games, live music and entertainment, weekly events, and the new Beer & Wine Garden. I think everyone that visited the market really appreciated the upbeat vibe and the huge array of options. On a typical Sunday, we had around 150 artisans, farmers and food trucks here, in addition to the 100-plus art studios, galleries and shops that are fixtures of the SoWa Art & Design District. Ultimately, the reason we host the market and other events is to support all of these wonderful folks while giving something back to our community, so it feels great when we’re able accomplish that.”
Already, there are plans for some events in November to highlight the many small businesses now operating in the SoWa District. St. Armand noted that 23 new businesses opened in the district just last November.
Meanwhile, the First Fridays continue to attract folks to the Artist Guild with some 80 studios full of the best artists in the City, as well as galleries galore on Thayer Street.
“We really want to make it a year-round thing,” he said. “We want to pull together smaller, specific events.”
To that end, the SoWa Winter Festival is full speed ahead for Dec. 3, 4, and 5.
St. Armand sid there will be more than 100 vendors, artists, the Farmer’s Market and Food Vendors. On Thayer Street, there will be a 30’ x 60’ tent with Wine Riot holding free wine tastings for those over 21.
Each area will have festive themes, carolers, holiday music and Santa Claus.
A gift wrapping station for charity will benefit Home Hearth in the South end.
There will also be food from Area 4 Restaurant in the Power Station. “What we’re trying to do is create a real winter village feel and I think people will like what we’re doing,” he said. GTI properties has about 150 residential units it has developed in the SoWa District and 1 million sq. ft. of commercial space. There are also more than 100 artist studios, shops and galleries in SoWa. The studios are so popular, he said, that they have a two-year waiting list.