This weekend marked the last day of the Sunday markets for the year, said the market’s director Johnny Fulmer. He and his wife, Susie, started the weekend markets 11 years ago, he said, and have since then seen them transform into a cornerstone in the local community.
Residents seeking fresh produce and local goods will still be able to buy them during Saturday’s markets, which are on Mill Street between 9 a.m. and noon, he said.
From humble beginnings
After a trip to New York City to visit their son almost a decade ago, the Fulmers, who own The Keeping Room, a small shop on the corner of Church Street and Mill Street, got to thinking of brining the idea home.
“If they can do this in New York, we should be able to do it here in Marietta,” Johnny Fulmer said.
With the help of the city council and former Mayor Bill Dunaway, Fulmer said the city helped start the then eight-vendor market, which continued to double and then triple in size.
The Saturday, year-round market now has about 60 vendors, who pay $20 each day to pitch a tent and a table and sell their wares, which Fulmer said must be Georgia-made, grown or produced.
An average weekend will bring about 1,000 people to the Square, Fulmer said, and the market is maxed out in size. There is no more room for new vendors, although Fulmer said he is always adding names to the list of people waiting for space.
The demand for Sunday markets
Three years ago, Fulmer said he began to get requests from residents who couldn’t make it to the Saturday market because of soccer practices or football games, so he expanded the market to two days.
The vendors were overwhelmingly supportive of the change, he said, and a waitlist quickly grew to fill the limited spots for Sunday’s market.
There is only enough room to house about 35 vendors on the strip of road on Mill Street, between Church Street and the railroad tracks each Sunday, and the spots are competitive to get, Fulmer said.
Many vendors come both Saturday and Sunday, and rely on the extra day of business to sell short-lived produce like tomatoes and vegetables that would go bad by the next week’s market, Fulmer said.
Jake Maselka was selling raw honey, beeswax candles and bee pollen Sunday afternoon, at the Hometown Honey stand. Bottled off of Main Street in Kenensaw, the jars of honey are filled from 11 neighboring bee farms around Acworth, Marietta and Kennesaw, he said.
Maselka favors market days, he said, where he enjoys the interactions he has with his customers and fellow vendors, but also takes pleasure in sampling the products of the other vendors as well.
Darlis Cleek was browsing a honey stand with her husband after driving in for the afternoon from their home in Dallas.
The two were disappointed the Sunday markets were ending, but plan to come back in the spring, she said.
In his years running the markets, Fulmer said he has seen the event used as an advertising tool for the city, drawing folks from all over to check out the city and what it has to offer.
Art Prioletta and David Vance, both of Atlanta, stopped by the market on Sunday just to “check it out,” they said, as they were in town for the day to explore Marietta.
They were surprised at how large both the Square and the market were, and plan to come back again to experience the market, they said.
“We love to come here,” said Marietta resident Pam Murphy.
She and her husband, Tom Murphy, and their Great Dane, Georgia, visit the weekend markets regularly, and have bought soaps, goat cheese, dog treats and vegetables before, they said, as a local vendor greeted them and took a picture of Georgia.
What it’s done for the city
What brings people back to the markets each week is a unique experience residents can’t get anywhere else, Fulmer said.
“When you come to one of these booths, you are talking to the people who made it. They know how it’s made, what’s in it and where it was made. You can’t get that at the grocery store,” Fulmer said.
Relationships are formed between the small businesses and the customers, and many people come back each week just to catch up with their vendors, he said.
“It’s a community-supported effort, and a good social gathering,” he said.
The market has brought business to the city, Fulmer said.
Not only have the businesses on the Square benefited from the market’s weekly traffic, but Fulmer estimates the markets have created so far about 225 jobs for the vendors as well.
“This is our primary business,” said Gypsy, of Freedom Farms in Chatsworth, Ga., as she stood before barrels of Fugi, Granny Smith and Winesap apples.
She sells peaches and apples at the Sunday market from April through November, and makes between $80 and $300 each week, she said.
Sunday was too cold for her liking, she said, and believes the weather kept many of her regular customers away, but she will be back when the weather warms up again in April with peaches.
Come back in April
“Sundays are over, but Saturdays are all-year-round,” said Susie Fulmer.
Residents can still get local honey, produce and products on Saturday mornings between 9 a.m. and noon on Mill Street in the Square.