Event a passion project for sister-in-law entrepreneurs
Their mantra is “start small, shop local, dream big.”
Olivia Wilkens-Settle, who lives in Toronto and runs a family-owned contracting company, and her sister-in-law Katie Dyson-Wilkens, from Hamilton, who works at a national marketing agency, are entrepreneurs who love Niagara. They have planned a two-day market in Fenwick, featuring local artisans, small businesses, and food vendors, many of which are women-owned, and non-profit.
These co-founders of the Fenwick Market and Trunk Sale, slated for June 25 and 26 from 10 AM to 4 PM, intend the event to support small businesses that have faced unprecedented challenges over the past two years during tough pandemic times, and most recently, the Hernder Estate Winery fire in March.
Olivia’s parents, Maguite and Ernie Wilkens, reside on ten acres in Fenwick at 1135 Centre Street, the site of the market. Its natural beauty is stunning, with resplendent Japanese maples and many other mature trees, and a lush lawn perfect for hosting a market event.
“Katie and I are big supporters of community-based small businesses, local shopping, and sustainability,” said Olivia. “We found ourselves drawn towards makers and sellers of vintage and second-hand goods, and have partnered with event planner Emily Burton to ensure that everything runs smoothly.”
The event is being promoted via word of mouth, social media, community advertising, lawn signs, and flyers at homes and businesses. The pair have confirmed some 50 vendors, a group of ten event volunteers, and have garnered some 400 followers on social media. They expect hundreds to attend.
We found ourselves drawn towards makers and sellers of vintage and second-hand goods, and have partnered with event planner Emily Burton to ensure that everything runs smoothly
An information tent and porta-potty facilities have been arranged, and free parking is available at the neighbouring school property, owned by Concordia Ontario Academy (formerly Pelham Centre Public School, which closed in 2017).
“We’ve received encouragement from our surrounding neighbours, and ensure that this will be a safe, family-friendly weekend,” said Olivia. “We are fully-insured, and require the same of our vendors. Our long-term goal is to partner with the Town of Pelham on future events that will be beneficial to both the municipality and local businesses.”
“Shopping small, shopping second-hand, and shopping local is the wave of the future,” said Katie. “This is a supportive community. We want each other to do well. How many industries can truly say that? Supporting small, family-owned, women-owned businesses is an easy way promote sustainability as consumers. Let’s buy used, let’s buy quality, let’s buy from each other.”
Though born and raised in Toronto, Olivia said that she has always considered Niagara her second home, spending many weekends and summers in the region during her youth.
“Growing up, I often visited my grandparents, who operated a small fruit farm, Brookside Acres, off Queenston Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” she said. “My grandmother ran the day-to-day, while my grandfather had a job at GM. My father, along with three of his five siblings, was born there.”
Her father eventually relocated to Toronto to establish a contracting business, but Olivia has vivid recollections of piling into the family station wagon on Friday nights, and waking up on the farm to the smell of French toast and homemade maple syrup, and the sounds of wild birds.
“During the pandemic, when we couldn’t work as much as we wanted to, we really got into buying second-hand, and restoring old furniture,” she said. “We started an online second-hand thrift Instagram account, and met a lot of other people who are local makers, furniture restorers, and dealers in vintage items like old glassware. We made a lot of connections through attending small farmers markets in the Toronto area.”
One day it dawned on Olivia and Katie to dive in and try their hand at running their own market.
“We’ve gone from zero to a hundred very quickly,” said Katie. “What was basically going to be kind of a fancy garage sale has turned into a community event with lots of momentum.”
The sisters have a dream of becoming players in the hospitality industry in Niagara.
“Perhaps one day we’ll have a restaurant or a hotel, and people will say, ‘Oh, I remember them, those are the markets girls,’” said Olivia.
This first effort won’t produce a windfall of profits, however.
“Our vendors are splitting the modest costs of rentals, and those that lost inventory during the Hernder Estate Winery fire won’t be charged any fee to participate,” said Olivia. “All of our staff are volunteering their time, and my parents are hosting for free. Our low fees allow inclusivity. We have everything from established sellers of vintage goods, to a retired school teacher who loves to make jewelry, and with the support of her family, is starting a brand new career. We just want to see people together. We’ve missed everyone.”
Katie, the marketing side of the duo, created the Fenwick Market brand, and has worked hard to attract locals, as well as those in the Hamilton-to-Toronto corridor.
“Folks can come here to our market, visit wineries, and sample the local fare,” said Katie. “Hopefully they’ll realize that Niagara needs to be supported and protected, so that many generations beyond ours can enjoy it.”
Information on the event is available on Instagram (@the.fenwick.market) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/the.fenwick.market.)