After shattering attendance records, Third + Bird Christmas market expands yet again
Organizers add 20,000 square feet, expand aisles to make market easier to navigate
After last year's Christmas market attracted 14,000 shoppers and long, long lines to get in, Third + Bird has expanded yet again.
This year, the market will take over 90,000 square feet of space in the downtown Hudson's Bay store, where 150 vendors will sell goods ranging from candles to Popsicle-style treats.
It's a 20,000-square-foot expansion that will allow bigger aisles, which will hopefully allow shoppers to navigate the market more easily, said Chandra Kremski, one of the market's co-founders.
"We were not expecting the crowds that we received. We were not expecting the number of customers we received," Kremski said of last year's influx.
The market started in 2009, when Kremski and her business partner, Charla Smeall, decided to put on a small craft sale over the holidays in the basement of a church in the North End in an attempt to showcase the best local makers in Winnipeg.
During that first year, Third + Bird featured 30 vendors and attracted about 500 people.
Nine years and 10 markets later, the Third + Bird Christmas market has grown into a phenomenon, attracting thousands of Winnipeggers each year who shun big box stores in favour of shopping local.
The Christmas market moved to the Hudson's Bay downtown last year, but it might even be outgrowing that space as well, Kremski said.
"We don't want to get so big that it becomes overwhelming and inaccessible to people. We do like having that small market feel, even though we are a larger market," she said.
"But we're always open to ideas."
Ultimately, Kremski said she and Smeall would like to have their very own space where they can host events year-round, or rent out to vendors.
"Each year that we grow, we're so thankful for it, but this is definitely not written into the business plan at all," she said.
Shift toward local
Kremski credits the market's success to Winnipeggers who want to shun big box stores in favour of shopping local.
"I just feel that we've tapped into a passion people in Manitoba have, which is supporting local makers, supporting small business, keeping money in Manitoba. I think those are core values that matter to a lot of people," she said.
"And I think that really contributes to the growth and success that we've seen in the past 10 years."
Amanda Buhse, co-founder of Coal and Canary Candle Company, said she thinks the growth of the market is a testament to that shift.
"It's really obvious, just looking at the sheer size of how big it is now versus when it started in an empty church," she said.
"It just goes to show — they're bursting at the seams."
Buhse has also seen that shift in her own business, which she started as a hobby with friend Tom Jansen. Now, Coal and Canary employs 17 people, sells its products through 250 boutiques across Canada and recently made distribution deals with Sephora and the Bay.
"You can see the different payoff" when buying from small, local vendors, Buhse said.
"You're helping someone who has a family, who is working two jobs to try to pay the bills and also keep their creative dream alive."
Kiera Fogg, founder of Little Box of Rocks, another Third + Bird vendor that has garnered international attention, said she thinks part of the market's attraction is that it gives shoppers a more meaningful experience.
"Our view at Little Box of Rocks is that gifts are all about connection," she said.
"When you think of Third + Bird, you don't think of Third + Bird — you think of Chandra and Charla, the bubbly, enthusiastic women behind the market.
"That's a feeling that kind of permeates the whole market. You can see that with the lines that wrap around the whole block."
Third + Bird runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the basement of the Bay building downtown, at the corner of Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.