Hedi Rudd, manager of First Impressions at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center on Madison’s south side, is pretty excited about the new Badger Rock Winter Market and Pop-up Co-op, which twice a month offers a location for some start-up chefs, artisans, farmers, and craftspeople to sell their products while at the same time providing healthy foods for community members and helping them make important connections in their community.
“When we were first thinking about doing a Winter Market, we knew that we didn’t want to do it like the market at Hilldale with expensive stuff that nobody in our community wants to buy,” Rudd tells Madison365. “I was also very interested in the Pop-up Co-op part because I wanted to provide entrepreneurs of color, especially here on the south side, with spaces to sell their products more frequently. There is such a need right now for us to expand opportunities for commerce in the community.”
Winter Markets are held every second and fourth Sunday of the month from February to April, noon – 4 p.m. What will you find at the Badger Rock Winter Market? Things like candles, handmade tortillas, jewelry, farm-raised organic meat, shea butter, beauty products and more.
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve had huge crowds so far, but the people who have come have had a lot of fun and have spent money,” Rudd says. “The people who come to this event love it and they stay for a while. I think this Winter Market just has so much potential and we’re looking for the last one in April to have a couple of food carts. We’re talking about continuing this on to have spring and summer markets. The great thing here is that we have the space and we will, hopefully, have lots of produce to sell as it gets warmer.”
The Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, located on Madison’s south side just off Rimrock Road, is a hub of community activity and is located in an inviting space that hosts community events, group gatherings and classes where neighbors of all ages are encouraged to get to know one another. It is part of The Center for Resilient Cities, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit committed to revitalizing urban communities. Also housed in the building is Badger Rock Middle School, a public charter school with an interdisciplinary, project-based learning program focused on environmental sustainability. Three-quarters of the students live in the nearby neighborhoods.
“We have been talking about doing a Winter Market for a little while. It had been on the table. One day, Terri Belz from Sugar River Farms e-mailed [Center for Resilient Cities Executive Director] Marcia [Caton Campbell] about using the space to do a Winter Market like the one that is done at Centro [Hispano]. On the same day, we got an e-mail from Tara Wilhelmi to do a Pop-up Co-op around the same dates that Terri was looking at,” Rudd says. “The partnership has been great because everybody brings a different strength to the table. Terri has a lot of experience doing the markets and Tara has been just great.”
At the Winter Market, you don’t have to just buy something and leave. The space is set up where it’s easy to sit and socialize. Rockameem Bell will be playing his drums. Haywood “Coach Wood” Simmons, CEO of Phitness Plus, will be giving 12-minute massages.
Every week, the Winter Market hosts a featured caterer. The first week it was Jamerica Jamaican Restaurant. The second week was a local new caterer called Jerk Paradise, who are located close by the Rimrock area.
“The cool part is that the vendors are really excited because they like the way that the event feels. They like the vibe. Everybody has a chance to talk to each other. It’s a chance to make connections and a chance to have some shared experiences in this space,” Rudd says. “It feels a little different than your regular market where you just stop and pop in and you don’t really get a chance to interact. There’s a lot of interaction and making connections at our Winter Market.”
For instance, at the last Winter Market, Jerk Paradise got to talking with a vendor who makes and sells tortillas. “I was eating one of Jerk Paradise’s tacos and it was a flour shell tortilla that was crumbling apart. The tortilla maker vendor here has a claim that his tortillas don’t fall apart,” Rudd says. “They started talking to each other and by the end they were fixing a plate using the tortilla man’s tacos and there was a talk of buying them in bulk. The cool part is that the tortilla man later contacted [Assistant Director] Peng [Her] and he may be using space here to make his tortillas late at night.
“Connections are being made left and right at these events,” Rudd adds. “It’s cool to see. For anybody that comes to a future market, they should know that they can really take their time and relax and really talk to the vendors and learn some interesting things.”
Rudd hopes to see the Badger Rock Winter Market continue to grow.
“We have a lot of possibilities. It’s a little overwhelming in a way,” she says. “We weren’t planning to do this; it just kind of came together. But we are so glad that we did it. When I come in on Sundays, it’s technically a work day … but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s so much fun with friends and community.”
The next Winter Market will be held Sunday, March 12. Badger Rock is looking for more vendors to join the Winter Market, in particular, produce, dairy and other food vendors, with an emphasis on diversity and food that the local community needs. For more information, send an e-mail to Hedi Rudd at firstname.lastname@example.org.