Metro, Column

SoWa Open Market Provides a Reason to Shop Local

Shop local. It’s a directive. It’s a trend. Dare I say it’s a lifestyle? Maybe not yet, but it should be. Either way, “shop local” is a phenomenon embodied by the SoWa Open Market.

Every Sunday from May to October, the public fills the converted factories of SoWa’s Art and Design District in the South End to experience the creativity of over 175 local artists and vendors.

As an ardent supporter of all things local and a completely unabashed knick-knack collector, I could think of no better way to spend a crisp early fall morning than wandering the booths of the SoWa Open Market. On one hand, it’s an excuse to buy succulents that I don’t have any more desk space for and that will inevitably die within a month of minimal sunlight. On the other hand, it’s a way to support the local talent and craftsmanship of Boston’s best artists, farmers, musicians, and creators. In essence, it’s a win-win.

Since attendance required waking up before 10 a.m. on a Sunday, none of my friends were persuaded to accompany me. I made the trek alone and was honestly looking forward to having a quiet morning to myself.

I arrived a mere five minutes after the market opened, which enabled me to scope out the scene before the booths became too crowded. Each vendor offered something unique. Sure, the types of goods for sale were exactly what you would expect at such an event—prints, stationery, succulents, jewelry, and fresh produce were staples—but every vendor seemed truly passionate about what they were selling.

Moreover, the vendors actually engaged with the community to whom they were selling, an experience you can never get buying the same types of items online or at a retail chain. The products were tailored to the audience, with many iconic Boston logos and skylines sprinkled throughout the market, but diverse enough that even an outsider could find something that suited their taste. 

While the open market itself was concentrated outdoors, a few flights of stairs down to the basement of one of the buildings led me to SoWa’s vintage market. Here, I found an array of relics from days gone by, loosely arranged by category.

I probably could have spent hours browsing the old maps, records, clothing, and furniture that filled the space. Indeed, I did thumb through nearly every print in one section of the market, mentally measuring the empty space on my dorm room wall to determine if I could fit a blueprint of a bike or a cover of The New Yorker from 1960.

Far from leaving no stone unturned in the vintage market, I wandered back upstairs to peruse the rest of the open market. With the scent of fresh-cut flowers filling the air, locally grown produce of every color of the rainbow in the farmers market area left me wishing I had a kitchen.

Lines had already begun to form outside the food trucks, but I exercised self-control in that area. A massive, gooey chocolate chip cookie was too much at 10 a.m., even for me.

Having seen all there was to see at this point, I decided to take one last lap around the open market before bidding it farewell. As I walked around, I noticed many vendors welcoming customers as old friends, and faces light up as neighbors happened to bump into each other. I was left with the impression that the SoWa Open Market fosters community simply by encouraging the city to shop local.

And if that doesn’t convince you, attend the market because you’ll see at least 13 dogs and probably leave with something you didn’t even know you needed.

Featured Images by Chloe McAllaster / Heights Editor

September 23, 2018