Strandhill People’s Market which has operated out of the unique space of an airport Hangar in Sligo for over seven years returned in June after being forced to close due to Covid-19 but has been busier than since reopening.
The market, now one of the biggest and most successful in the country, has seen a surge in applications with a new wave of young entrepreneurs that flourished during lockdown. That’s according to organisers who say that the pandemic has forced people to re-look at their working lives and gave them the opportunity to be more creative.
“Lockdown in Ireland seems to have given people the time they never had to be more creative, learn a new skill or take what they thought was a hobby and turn it into something more,” says Allan Mulrooney, one of the managers. “Once we re-opened in June, we were inundated with new stall holder applications across a wide range of products including photography, textiles, clothing, art, food and more.
“Those who now trade with us see the weekly event as a landing pad to test new products, build up a customer base and a reputation before hopefully moving on to start their own business across the region.”
One such new trader is Aoibhin Clancy who set up Coy Vintage over the past 12 months. Now a weekly trader at the market, Aoibhin says the experience has given her a new direction and her new business is already thriving.
“Since Coy Vintage started trading at the market, we have steadily increased our sales and promotion of sustainable and vintage clothing. We’ve also grown a customer base from across the North West much faster than expected.”
This roadmap has already been successfully proven by Shane Meehan who traded at the market before going on to open Stoked restaurant locally.
The same can be said for Grow Café in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon, Nook Café in Colooney and plant based café Sweet Beat in Sligo town.
Owner of Sweet Beat café Carolanne Rushe explains how trading at the market helped her to kick start the business. “Strandhill People’s Market gave me the platform to test my products and ideas with local customers. I knew that ultimately I would love my own café and having the weekly stall played a huge part in where Sweet Beat is today. Our customers who came to us on day one of the market are part of our regular following in the café today.”
The weekly event which takes place every Sunday from 11am-4pm, all year including throughout November and December also houses a wide variety of hot food vendors selling Indian, Mexican, Spanish, Syrian, Italian and vegan cuisine. “Our food offering has become more important than ever post lockdown” explains Allan. Our footfall has returned to pre pandemic numbers with everyone adhering to Covid-19 guidelines. The wide selection of food means that families spend their day with us and often stay for hours, meeting friends for a coffee or lunch before spending time browsing the stalls.”
As the festive season approaches, the market organisers are encouraging people to think before they buy online and where possible, purchase from Irish owned and operated businesses. “Our traders had to pivot during lockdown and many now trade online thanks to the support of the local Enterprise office,” Allan explained.
“Trading day on Sunday is the most important day of the week for them and it’s vital that as we move into November and December, with issues in global supply chains, that we look local for products and support indiginuous brands and start-ups that have taken the brave leap to open a business during a global pandemic”.