CAMDEN, NJ — As if there wasn’t already enough incentive to support struggling Camden small businesses, which have taken a hit during the coronavirus pandemic, two outdoor markets in the city want to give you one more: convenience.
With the “E” Street Market on Saturdays in Parkside and The Masked Melanin Market on the waterfront every Sunday, locals are covered for their every day retail needs, holiday gifts and more.
“Instead of residents having to go far, like all the way to the mall or all the way to Walmart, Why not come here? Do business with good people that have quality products,” Sheilah Greene told TAPinto Camden standing at The “E” Street Market. “The ‘E’ stands for entrepreneurs, I wanted to give them a place to set up...Parkside used to be a shopping Mecca all up and down Haddon Avenue. But then all the stores started closing, so we had to figure out another way.”
That came serendipitously for Greene, who also serves as the community outreach specialist for neighborhood organization, Parkside Business & Community in Partnership (PBCIP). She was shopping for supplies at Valley Power Electrical on Crestmont Avenue in Camden during the spring, when she met Carolyn Carr, who owns the store with her husband, Steve.
Greene said ultimately she came up with the idea for the market and the parking lot area of the supply store was “perfect” for young business owners and entrepreneurs to safely set up shop.
“In this time of crisis, small businesses are getting hit the hardest so this is a way to get them community dollars,” she added.
Besides face masks, more than a dozen tables at the market were separated by more than six feet. Hand sanitizer was on hand, as was Greene who made the rounds ensuring everyone adhered to safety protocols.
Joey Deal, 23, and Fiq Conway, 24, both of Camden, said their clothing brand, Hustle By Nature, embodies their attitudes toward life.
“Everyone hustles in their own way, this is how we do it,” said brand manager Conway.
Deal, the founder of Hustle By Nature, added, "Right now we're working on opening a store in Pennsauken...and continue growing."
In the meantime, Deal added, he takes advantage of outdoor events like the market to share his products, which today included sweaters, winter caps and white T-shirts with bold "Hustle By Nature" logos or designs playing on NBA franchises.
Also on display at The “E” Street Market: Camden author and life coach, Shana Danielle, 30, with her inspirational debut, “Rise” and A.J. Rigg’s The Camden Store, which prints T-Shirts - mostly with a Camden twist.
Jimmie Black, 49, of Sicklerville, said his business, The Herbal Choice, made the one-year anniversary in September. He currently sells six flavors of his CBD-infused fruit juices.
Baleeia Minggia, of Mama B’s Soup for Your Soul, said she was at the market to serve what has already been successful at home.
“My homemade soup was first just something I did for my family, but people have really liked it. I don’t cook with pork, I’m also vegan, so it’s healthy and fresh,” said Minggia. “I also know a lot of people are coffee drinkers, but they tend to like my honey ginger lemon tea too. It’s nice and hot, and perfect for days like today.”
The Masked Melanin Market
A little over 2 miles away, Tawanda Jones sets up her market on the waterfront every Sunday for anyone on the prowl for clothing, accessories, home goods, haircare, makeup and dog apparel.
First started on South Broadway, Jones said she’s since moved and found a home on the waterfront - with plans to continue operations through 2020 and beyond.
“The Masked Melanin Market was created to revive the economic outlook for black and brown entrepreneurs in Camden,” said Jones, who launched the market at the end of August. “I watched social media during the pandemic and riots and it was heartbreaking. People were losing loved ones and jobs. I noticed how innovative our people of color were making everything from clothes hair products, growing herbs and spices all from their homes, [and] I wanted to create a space for us.”
Jones said she’s attracted vendors from Harlem, Newark and Atlantic City.
Philadelphia-natives Jesse Mell, 41, and his father, Andrew Mell, 64, were out on a morning bike ride across the river when they stumbled on the market.
“My wife and I are always trying to patronize local businesses, and just being more intentional about ordering from the place down the street as opposed to across the city,” said Jesse.
Despite a light drizzle Sunday morning, Camden’s Bart Hudson and Latesha Taylor sold from their clothing line, Royal Moves, Rosie and Michael Spencer served up home-cooking from Rosie’s Kitchen and Kyle Price, of Beard Bandits Moss, educated customers on his wellness products.
“It’s our first time at the market,” said Evyonna Stevenson of Beyond Threads, which offers plush toys, blankets and other handmade goods. “I like the idea of focusing on small businesses of color and helping them sell the items they’re creating themselves.”
The “E” Street Market is located at 1420 Crestmont Avenue. It will run on Saturdays (weather permitting) from Noon to 5 p.m. until Dec. 19. A market event, with the theme “Heroes Day,” will also be held Nov. 7 from Noon to 4 p.m.
The Masked Melanin Market is located at 2 Riverside Dr. It will run every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through the end of the year and into 2021.