Whether you find yourself in the real world or in our remote Key West bubble, Sundays are sacred. Nothing wards off the Monday scaries like a decadent brunch, a nap, and maybe an early dinner or a matinee at the Tropic Cinema. But if you’re one of the hundreds of artists and artisans who live in Key West, Sunday mornings are for the Artisan Market — a smorgasbord of delicious eats, handmade crafts, unique wares and local music.
We sense you’re feeling skeptical. Listen, we know it’s Sunday and we know it’s early and we know you went out last night and probably drank a little more than you intended to and ended up at Bobby’s Monkey Bar at 2 a.m., singing sappy love songs and making new best friends you’ll never remember. But we promise, the Artisan Market is worth getting out of bed for — you can grab a mimosa or bloody Mary from the Great Events bar, snack on Chicktatoes™ to soak up the remnants of last night’s debauchery and walk off your hangover while you browse dozens of booths full of handmade goods (plus, an oversized slice of rum cake totally counts as hair of the dog, right?). And, if nothing else, the smell of Smoked BBQ’s ribs will snap you out of whatever booze-induced coma you’ve fallen into. So, grab a glass of water and some Advil and get yourself together, you won’t be disappointed.
The original Artisan Market was the result of a collaboration between creative genius Sean Krikorian, event planning maven Jill Snodgrass and Restaurant Store owner Richard Tallmadge. The Artisan Market was born in 2013, when Krikorian, Snodgrass and Tallmadge were simultaneously looking for a venue through which to channel their respective creative energies. “Richard wanted to do an event for ART! Key West over Thanksgiving weekend and Jill was looking for a venue to bring a little Midwest farmer’s market to Key West, so we decided that a small vendor fair would be a way to showcase local artists and be a great endcap to that event,” Krikorian recounts. “The artisans loved it and wanted more, so we decided to try to host a market every month that season and only accept participants that live and create arts, crafts and culinary items in the Keys.”
Six years later, the Artisan Market is a well-respected and heavily attended celebration of what the Keys have to offer and its philosophy reflects the inclusive ethos of our diverse community. “The Key West Artisan Market is a vibrant venue organized to facilitate the exchange of unique merchandise and creativity by concentrating on what’s local and fresh,” Krikorian articulates. “The Market has exceeded what we set out to accomplish: it’s a fun, family-friendly event for locals.”
The growing size and scope of the Artisan Market are an unambiguous seal of public approval for Krikorian and Snodgrass, especially after last year’s debut at Higgs Beach (100 Atlantic Blvd.), between the dog park and the playground (dogs and kids allowed!). “We’re excited for our second year at Higgs Beach,” says Krikorian. “It’s an incredible location with a good vibe that fits the Artisan Market well. This year, we’re using several shows to promote local non-profit organizations like Star of the Sea Foundation, Florida Keys SPCA, Bahama Village Music Program, Zena Fund and the Key West Wildlife Center. We also team up with the City to promote the Preserve Island Life initiative and the Green and Sustainability movement and we encourage our guests to BYOB (bring your own bags).”
“The biggest perk of our new space is all the free parking,” Snodgrass says. “There are over 400 spaces in and around the park. At the first market during our first season at Higgs Beach, several people told me they had stopped coming to the Restaurant Store markets because parking was such a hassle, but now they plan to attend every Sunday. Secondly, we have more room for vendors and performers. At The Restaurant Store we were limited to about 60 vendor spaces, we had a tiny stage area for musicians and we were only able to set up a few tables and chairs for guests to hang out.
“At Higgs Beach, we have room for more than 100 vendors, which means instead of having forty or fifty artists on the waitlist each show, we’ll be able to find a spot for everyone who wants to be involved. We also have room for bands and an area for folks to sit and enjoy the music. We encourage folks to bring a lawn chair to enjoy the shows. Thirdly, the green space creates a very inviting vibe. Finally, it’s more dog and kid-friendly with the dog park adjacent to the vendor area on one side and the children’s playground on the other!”
And due to the overwhelming demand for more markets, the Artisan Market takes place every other Sunday (rather than the third Sunday of each month) until February, and then every Sunday in February and March. “Traditionally, we’ve been a bi-weekly market,” Krikorian says. “This season, we’re going to do weekly shows in February and March for more opportunities to hang out, grab a bite, listen to music and shop the talented local artisans.”
Krikorian and Snodgrass’ playfulness and whimsy permeate the spirit of the Artisan Market and the local community has embraced their mission wholeheartedly. “We are truly humbled by the overwhelming support the community has shown in embracing the event,” Krikorian enthuses. “The market continues to evolve each year to respond to the needs and opinions of the public. The community is what makes the market special. It’s a venue for local artists and craftspeople to sell their creative inspirations and a great meeting place for residents and winter locals to see friends and hang out.
There truly is something for everyone at the Artisan Market, whether you’re looking for art or jewelry, dog treats or lunch. In addition to featuring local merchants, each Artisan Market has a distinctive theme that highlights something special about the culture and products of the Florida Keys. Upcoming themes include this weekend’s Fill the Pantry Edition featuring the Star of the Sea Foundation (a charitable organization whose mission is to increase the health and well-being of low-income individuals and families in Monroe County) and the Art of the Art edition on Feb. 23, which will feature the Bahama Village Music Program.
There will also be a Holiday/Shop Local market on Dec. 15 (a blessing for those of us who are extremely last-minute holiday shoppers). Snodgrass anticipates the holiday market to be a huge hit. “Our amazing vendors offer a little bit of everything and guests are sure to find the perfect gifts for everyone on their list. Come enjoy the market, the vendors, the music, great food, fun drinks and hey, being right across from Higgs Beach, the view’s pretty spectacular, too.”
The Artisan Market is held every other week on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and every Sunday in February and March. This season, the dates are Nov. 17, Dec. 1, Dec. 15, Dec. 29, Jan. 12, Jan. 26, Feb. 2, Feb. 9, Feb. 23, March 1, March 8, March 15, March 22, March 29, April 5 and April 19. Guests are encouraged to go green and ride bikes, take the bus or hop on the trolley, which conveniently stops at the Casa Marina. But if you need to drive (to haul away all your artisanal goodies), parking is ample. And please BYOB (bring your own bags). If you’re a local artisan and want to apply for a booth on a future date, the easiest way to apply is online at bit.ly/KWAM-Vendors. And for those of you reading this bleary-eyed and fuzzy-headed on Sunday morning, put on some pants and take a leisurely bike ride to the beach (and pick me up an order of those addictive Chicktatoes™ while you’re at it — I’ll owe you one). ¦