By Seth Daniel
Chris Masci literally started with $10 and a good idea when he began a door-knocking campaign some 13 years ago in the South End to drum up support for what he was calling the South End Open Market.
He dreamed of a New York City-style street festival with arts and more.
Some doors were slammed in his face, and red tape mounted, but in the end, the erstwhile marketeer established what became the go-to event in the South End on most summer weekends – the South End Open Market.
“When we started out in 2003, we had like 50 vendors and we were this cult, renegade group of artists who were out there bucking the trend,” said Masci. “It didn’t really take off for awhile. It took a long time to get people to come to that area, because it really was a slow area. I was determined to make it work. I literally started the Market with $10 and an idea, and the idea took off.”
Now, with some years of proven success and a little controversy from last year behind him, Masci and his cadre of vendors have partnered with Tufts University and the Ink Block and are ready to start anew this Sunday with a revived South End Open Market.
This time, Masci said, the three separate markets located in different areas of the South End will be scrapped and the entire fair/festival will be in one large parking lot and a closed off Traveler Street.
“Having everything in one location is a huge benefit,” Masci told the Sun. “We really haven’t done anything like this since the beginning when we were all together. However, the size is much different now and a lot larger with so much more offerings. This is the first time we’ll have absorbed all four markets into one location. Previously, it was divided up into three markets and customers often just didn’t get that. You would get customers at the Farmer’s Market location or the Food Trucks and they would complain because they didn’t understand there were two other locations. This is going to have more of a festival feel to it with music and everything in one place. For the vendors, it’s very important because they can feed off of one another. It’s very exciting.”
The revived configuration has been given new life by the fact that a partnership has blossomed between Masci and the Ink Block developers National Development – as well as Tufts Medical Center that is offering up its expansive employee parking lot every Sunday.
Ted Tye, managing partner of National Development, said the South End Open Market is something they see as an amenity for their residents and something to bring more people to this newly revived part of the South End.
“We have always said we want to change the center of gravity in the South End to here at the Ink Block,” he said. “By the South End Open Market moving here, that contributes to all our goals. What we’re trying to do is what Chris has done. We like the fact that residents can come right out of their home and be right in the middle of the energy. We also love that it will bring people here from outside the South End. It’s a win-win. We think it will become a great neighborhood festival and market each week.”
In addition to the festive atmosphere with music and entertainment, Market-goers will see 120 artists and designers running the full gamut with jewelry, ceramics and fine arts. There will be independent designers with clothes, dog/pet items, baby clothes, and basically anything hand-made. There will also be 45 farmers and specialist vendors and 16 Food Trucks.
But the biggest news is there will be a new fourth market added, a Vintage Market curated by Oliver Best Markets.
“That’s a new partnership and something people can really look forward to,” said Masci.
Justin Pomerleau, founder of Oliver Best Markets, said he is extremely excited to partner with Masci – especially since he got his start at the old Open Market. Now operating a brick and mortar store in Allston – Vivant Vintage – Pomerleau, 27, said he wouldn’t have been able to do what he’s doing without starting out in the South End.
“People are going to be very pleased as to what we’re bringing to the Market,” he said. “I travel more than 2,000 miles a month across New England to pick up treasures and scout out talent. We’re bringing in some new dealers and our core group of dealers…Chris has a great reputation and is great with management. It’s going to be exciting. There are a lot of dealers who haven’t been in the South End in a long time. I left two years ago because I didn’t like how the other vintage market was being run. I think the customer base is going to be excited to see the all-stars of the South End Open Market back again.”
At around 11:45 a.m. on Sunday, Mayor Martin Walsh is scheduled to make an appearance and to officially kick off the event. Masci said he is excited to have the mayor there.
“He’s a huge supporter of the arts and I think the Market is very important to Boston,” he said. “We support through all our markets in New England some 900 vendors. For many of them, this is the sole source of income.”
The new South End Open Market will kick off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 1, with 500 vendors, and end at 4 p.m. It will continue operation every Sunday through October 30. It will take place in the new location in the parking lot at the corner of Harrison and Traveler Streets. As a note, Traveler Street will be closed to traffic all day.