Saturday Market Survives the Economy

Food and craft vendors at the Portland Saturday Market have high hopes this season after weathering the economic slump the last few years. Most vendors saw a general increase in sales early this season and continue to rely on business from tourists and locals who appreciate handcrafted goods.

On a recent Saturday, Margaret O’Donovan sat in her stall space surrounded by handmade tutus and skirts. It was her first day at the Portland Saturday Market and she anticipated a lot of business.

“I think most Oregonians really appreciate handmade items and will still be willing to pay for it,”  she said.

A major tourist attraction in Portland, the Saturday Market draws in buyers from a different crowd than the average shopper.

“Going to Saturday Market is more of a social thing, so I think that changes the selling dynamic rather than trying to sell at a mall,” O’Donovan said.

The market generates nearly $8 million annually and attracts around 750,00 visitors each year, according to its website.

Gene Nawrocki, who sells handcrafted leather goods, has had a stall at the market for the past two years. “Since the Saturday Market started back up this March things have gotten better than last year,” he said.

Some vendors continue to struggle compared to years past. Joanne Ross returned to the Portland Saturday Market for the first time in four years to sell her Timberline Designs merchandise. “It’s harder to sell now than it was when I was here four years ago,” she said.

“I haven’t changed things much and my prices are the same, but it costs more to make the same products,” Ross said.

With the economy still coming out of a recession, most vendors count on steady business from tourists, Ross said. “This is a great venue because tourists will usually buy more here.”

The market also draws in shoppers who appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the products sold there. Customers have the opportunity to discuss the product with the artist or vendor directly.

After her second year selling decorative gourds at the market, Casi Massingill said she had made it her lifelong goal to sell her creations there.

“I’m just glad to be here selling my stuff and Saturday Market is such a great place to do that, regardless of how slow it gets,” she said.