A guy’s view on shopping at the Market

As a market vendor I have 7 years in experience observing the way men shop in the market. Being a guy my own approach to buying parallels that of many other men.  In my own business we cultivate repeat business. If a gift works well for a guy, he will likely return to the store for further purchases. My wife and I make one of a kind pieces, so the retention of repeat customers is high.

Men generally shop with the swiftness of assassins. Of course, you will find indecisive specimen among us, but most of the time shopping keeps us from other activities, so it must happen quickly. We generally know what we are specifically looking for,  so it is mostly seek and buy. Shopping as a recreation is not really a guy thing.  Sometimes men are uncomfortable shopping in department stores or boutiques. Those types of stores are not necessarily environs where we feel at ease. The market is a uniquely laid back place where you can find a wide range of things in one place. It also allows people to meet the craftsperson or artist and make informed buys.

Growing up with an older sister, I have spent countless hours being dragged along while my mother and sister shopped endlessly from store to store. The market provides many stalls and fixed businesses that appeal to the average guy. We have several vendors that produce excellent woodwork. Their work ranges from hand wrought stools, cutting boards, boxes, long boards to cribbage boards. My friend Joseph of Swanfield Horn & Stone Craft makes obsidian knives with hand carved handles. If you’re in the market for more modern blades we also have Seattle Cutlery in the market.  They sell specialty blades from kitchen to tactical knives.

Joseph of Swanfield Horn & Stone Craft
obsidian knives with hand carved handles

Guys will always gravitate towards food offerings in the Pike Place Market.  For years Don & Joe’s Meats have been my preferred butchers. They also have great frozen bones for your dogs, just ask. Tourists are always fascinated by the goings on at Pike Place Fish. We also have three more fishmongers in the market. As a former commercial fisherman, I prefer my fish not going airborne. Beecher’s Cheese is a great place to eat, but it is also fun to watch their cheese production in action. There are also several wine shops in the market. The deli Pear has a great selection of domestic craft beers and imports. They also carry wine and great foods to accompany those beverages. Countless specialty foods can be found throughout the market.

For the shopping weary guy the market provides many choices in bars and restaurants for a beer or cocktail.  On warm days you can even find an outside spot to rest and have a drink.  Several pubs and restaurants provide al fresco seating for patrons. I have directed many husbands to various watering holes in the market, while their wives continue their shopping.

For many men traveling on business, the market provides a great place to purchase anything from a tourist t-shirt to fine art. We are walking distance from many downtown hotels. We are often the last place for businessmen to shop before heading for the airport. Our location and diversity make it very guy friendly. They are in and out like trained assassins.

Pear Delicatessen
Local and Import Beer

 Ron Sabando, Sabando Design

Happy birthday to Pike Place Producers

You’ve laughed, cried, been surprised and stimulated, amazed, interested and even provoked. Above all we hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog over the last year.

As we approach the anniversary of our launch we can take a look back with pleasure and pride at the amazing and eclectic posts that have provided a unique insight into the life and times of the crafts community at Pike Place Market.

The blog was born out of some friendly meetings at the studio I share with Lynn Rosskamp of PingiHats where, fuelled by good snacks and beverages, our creative brains turned to how we can make more people aware of who we are and what we do.

We knew there was a wealth of great stories to tell about our businesses and lives as artists and crafts people, and about our place in one of Seattle’s oldest institutions and major tourist attractions.

And admittedly there was a measure of frustration driving us. Daily we encounter at our booths so many people who are completely unaware that the Market has a vibrant crafts community, that we all make what we sell, that we are professionals.

Over the course of those meetings we agreed it made sense to collaborate to get the word out, and to utilize the interest we shared in online and social media to make that happen. We set up a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and this blog, and Kat Allen of Symbols in Art wrote the first post of June 13, 2011.

Since then we’ve included artist profiles, pieces about our inspiration and work processes, and lots of information about how crafts community at the Market works. We’ve addressed etiquette and some pet peeves. There have been lots of photographs, some super cartoons, even a song playlist. I encourage you to browse the archives to check out all the posts.

In the last year our blog has received over 10,000 views. Our busiest day was September 14, 2011 when my post about the thorny issue of pricing was widely shared. Also very popular was Kat’s post about Market lunch spots on March 8 this year, and the Where Are You From post by Laura Killoran of Croshay Design. And the recent tearjerker about How the Market Brings People Together by Kristeena and Ron Sabando of Sabando Design was widely read and shared.

We do a new post weekly and there is much, much more to say, so stick around, follow us on Twitter, like our Facebook page. Thanks!

Emma Roscoe, Red Delicious Bags

So – We’re going to have to work around the squid

Little did Ben Franz-Knight know the kind of decisions he would face when he took on the job of director of the PDA midway into our 3 year market renovation project.

Work moved forward. Scaffolding needed to be put into place. A beautiful glass elevator was being built. Squid, 200 pounds, 26 feet long and hanging 30 feet in the air of the Pike Place Market Atrium, needed a new home. Squid was in the way. Months of searching. How about the Seattle Aquarium? Nope. It’s an artists rendition and not anatomically correct.  The aquarium doesn’t want it. Now what?  Word goes out – Squid stays. We’re going to have to work around the squid.  Scaffolding was raised coming within inches of the unique and beloved sculpture.  Squid was safe. The Atrium renovation work and the elevator were completed under its watchful gaze.  Just one story of many in this latest market renovation.

And now – work is nearly completed on this well managed project. “Renovation News and Updates” – May 2012 – FINAL ISSUE !  Yes.  A sigh of relief is heard throughout the market.

Thursday, May 10, was set aside as a day for the PDA to say Thank You ! to the market community “in recognition for our patience and perseverance during construction and disruption”.  A buffet breakfast was provided and we sat together around festive tables.  Later in the day we gathered for hors d’oeuvres and cake in the Atrium. Squid overhead.  Fare Start was chosen for the evening catering.  Their chef walked through the market and was inspired by and created the tasty nibbles from the produce and fish he saw there. Why go any further than the bounty the market provides?

The cake was created by Sugar Rush Baking Company and the design spoke volumes. Pipes. The inner workings of the market. Designed by David Dickinson, Market Master Staff member, and a thoughtful choice for a cake commemorating a nuts and bolts renovation process.  Much of the work lies unseen under the “skin” of the market.

Commemorative brass pins were offered in 4 designs. My favorite – the squid.  Speeches were given. Thank you to the PDA council, The Market Constituency and Nick Licata to name just a few.  Would it be too forward to call Mr. Licata – Uncle Nick?  He is an ever present advocate for the market and through the market all of our small businesses.

Thank you Ben and PDA staff  for seeing us through.  Thank you to the contractors for coming in on time and budget.  Thank you to the construction workers who stopped at our tables and made purchases while on their lunch or on their way home.  You’re part of the market now. Don’t be strangers.

Kat Allen, Symbols in Art

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Busking with Howlin’ Hobbit

Howlin’ Hobbit on the Desimone Bridge

Seattle is well known for its contributions to the American music scene, from Jimi Hendrix to garage rock to Sir Mix-A-Lot to grunge, and Pike Place Market is also humming with the sounds of the Northwest via our thriving community of buskers.  What, you may ask, is a busker?  Busking is the art of street performance, often music but also magic shows, mime, performance art, spoken word, juggling and dance.  Most of the Market’s buskers also perform in local clubs, tour regionally with bands and some have even gone on to popular stardom, such as Brandi Carlisle who got her start performing at the Market before she was old enough to play in bars and clubs.  Artis the Spoonman has been a Market fixture for decades and rose to worldwide fame through the Soundgarden song “Spoonman.”

One can’t just pick up a guitar, put out an upturned hat for tips and start strumming and singing on any corner at the Market.  Buskers must apply for and purchase a yearly busking license from the Pike Place Market PDA.  Over a dozen spaces that are zoned for busking are marked with a big red musical note painted on the concrete along with a number inside the note that indicates how many performers in a group are permitted in that space.  Amplified music and percussion along with certain types of instruments or performances are not allowed for reasons of noise and public safety.  No fire spinning or chainsaw juggling or adult language please!  Buskers are given one hour each for their show and line up early in the day to stake their claim for a specific time slot in the space of their choice.  Their pay is completely reliant on tips from the public and, for some, CD and merchandise sales.

One of the most illustrious buskers currently performing at the Market is a diminutive fellow with a jaunty mustache, a collection of handsome fezzes and a fabulous facility with the ukulele who goes by the intriguing sobriquet of Howlin’ Hobbit.  On a break between sets at his favorite busking spot on the front of the Desimone Bridge, Hobbit sat down with me to answer a few nosy questions about his life as a Market musician.

Now in his 28th (!) season performing at the Market, Hobbit started out at ol’ Pikey with a magic act that has evolved over time into playing the blues and, currently, he plays several ukeleles and the harmonica and sings, mostly jazz and popular standards from yesteryear.  Hobbit has a great affinity for the Weimar Berlin period between the two world wars and his style, both in fashion and song, reflects that.  He’s got a pleasantly raspy voice that sounds like it would be right at home in a smoky basement jazz club somewhere in New Orleans and is a versatile instrumentalist who counts not only the ukelele, harmonica and guitar in his arsenal but also plays piano, pocket sax, flute, bass and percussion.  When not busking solo at Pike Place, Hobbit performs with his band Snake Suspenderz at local clubs, festivals and other farmers markets around the Seattle area. They’ve performed at the Pike Place Buskers Festival, at the CanCan club in the Market, the famous Moisture Festival and even at Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony.  Hobbit has also graced a number of burlesque stages in the area, another art form Seattle is known for.

I asked Hobbit what he’d consider his most memorable busking moments.  He replied that seeing Billy Gibbons, guitar god of ZZ Top, give him a nod of approval from the crowd during a blues set at the Market was a real high point. He’s also spotted Gregory Hines grooving to his music while leaning against a pillar under the Market clock. Hobbit briefly considered calling out, “hey, this act could use a hoofer!” but thought the better of it, preferring to give the legendary dancer and actor his privacy.  When asked if he had any words of wisdom about the world of busking he’d like to share in this post, he replied, without missing a beat, “Busking is not for wimps!  And tipping for photos and videos is de rigueur!”  Having only experienced the world of busking from the sidelines of the crafts tables, I would definitely have to concur.

If you’d like to hear some of Howlin’ Hobbit and his band Snake Suspenderz’s music, visit his website at www.howlinhobbit.com  He’s got videos online and CDs for purchase.  He’s also always available for gigs!

by Lynn Rosskamp