Independent Marketplace in Sand City to Experiment With $5 Cover Charge
October 25, 2012
In a perfect world, communities would gather in a hip urban setting of concrete and commerce to buy and sell super-fresh seafood, browse mindfully curated art, listen to live music and valet their just-bought sauerkraut, jams and greens with the smiley volunteer while they sip local wines and graze on gourmet food-truck fare.
That perfect world has happened for seven months straight with the pioneering Independent Marketplace in Sand City (394-6000), in the unoccupied bottom floor of 600 Ortiz Ave.
Only it's not quite so perfect.
Vendor fees have not covered the costs of organizing, insuring and providing security for the first-Thursday marketplace, according to event co-founder Patrick Orosco, whose family's development company owns the building. So rather than continue to take a loss—which he's been justifying as essentially a marketing expense to give the space some exposure to possible tenants, instead of working with a broker to find businesses with heart, personality and verve—he's asking attendees to pay $5 to come starting next Thursday, Nov. 1.
He waxes philosophical, emotional and endless in explaining why that modest contribution plays right into the lofty aim of the market. He says it's an experiment, after all, where we're seeing how to keep it going, and this is the next step. He adds people are more than just static observers, they're participants, and pitching in is part of it. As the art is curated, the music quality, the entertainment long-lasting, the investment is well worth it.
"Compare it to $11 for a movie in a theater by yourself," he says. "Here you're supporting local artisans, musicians and producers. The goal is to communicate a connection between value—how much for how little—and values."
It may take Orosco a while to explain it—his preliminary press release he sent the Weekly was more than 1,600 words (excerpts appear below)—but he has reasonable enough arguments.
But all folks showing up on Thursday are going to hear is three words: "Five dollars, please."
Giving the people something for free then starting to charge later is tricky business. Facebook can bear witness to how not-so-well it can go.
So at least a few will walk away on principle. Dozens more will wonder why they're paying for the opportunity to spend money.
Plenty more will be unable to resist the themed art-culture-and-produce explosion. November's installment comes with Dia de los Muertos flavoring—think Big SurCus fire dancing, oyster-and-wine pairings, mixology, Mariquita Farms, with Big Sur Land Trust benefiting.
So the experiment continues.
••• Below appears much of the Independent Marketplace's press release:
The Independent Marketplace was borne out of the intention of creating a safe, neutral, family friendly space where the Monterey Bay's most curious and progressive residents commune to support local entrepreneurs and community causes.
True to its namesake, The Independent Marketplace is open only to local makers and entrepreneurs promoting predominantly hand and locally made products. It is about the people behind products,....about the "why's" within the "what's,.... and about a re-connection of the concept of "value" with "values."
Amid our message of ecological sustainability (through commitments to the offset project), cultural sustainability (through our series of featured nonprofits), and economic sustainability (through our support of the local food shed and local makers), we are now faced with the test of forecasting our own sustainability.
While the Marketplace has been widely popular, it costs several thousand dollars each month to produce. Vendors pay fees that proportionate to their sales, but these fees recover only 15% to 20% of the total cost to produce each event. The resulting shortfall has been covered by The Orosco Group, owners of The Independent, since the event's inception. This gesture was intended to allow more money to flow through to our partner nonprofits through a suggested minimum $5 donation by every attendee.
While we were happy to meet one half of our goal with the $2,200 that we raised Henry Miller Library at our first event for, community giving has waned, not grown over time. And while the exposure we have afforded our nonprofit partners has left them elated, our last event raised only $124 in donations. What was intended to engage guests in the spirit of giving and participation has slipped into a form of free entertainment... which was never our intention. But this observation is by no means an admission of failure... what has happened within the Independent Marketplace is something far more rewarding than we could have ever expected. What started out as "an experiment in food, drink, art, and culture" has also become an experiment in community.
Within the raw, unfinished walls of The Independent, and Sand City's surrounding industrial landscape a common feeling can be found on the First Thursday of the month... an energy is growing... and a community is emerging. The people vendors who populate the Independent marketplace are invited not only because of the strength of their products, but because of their passions, their intention, their desire to share a message about living connected lives. The same is true of our numerous nonprofit partners, our volunteers, and now, our guests. Those who have attended The Independent Marketplace have often observed that it offers one of the first and only examples on the Monterey Bay where families, singles, kids, and seniors can engage one another comfortably and enthusiastically, and where people from all walks of life - across all race, socio economic, even sexual preference profiles - can mingle and celebrate seamlessly.
Perhaps the most memorable praise we've received to date was from an elder member of our emerging community who observed that "the feeling of community here is the way things should be". We agree. We believe that the Independent Marketplace itself offers a tremendous benefit to the community in leading by example. The Independent Marketplace is chiefly about one thing: sharing... sharing our time, our resources, our knowledge, our relationships, our attention, and our enthusiasm for one another. We call this 'social capital'. It's our tenement of sharing social capital that is building our community. We are building a mission-driven community that is open to anyone who wishes to participate.
But without a calculated change in our funding structure, there will be no next month, let alone next year for The Independent Marketplace. In response to the widespread enthusiasm we've observed The Independent Marketplace has applied for fiscal sponsorship under the umbrella of the Action Council for Monterey County while we seek our own 501c3 nonprofit status. This move follows the same model that nearly all markets both here on the Monterey Bay and elsewhere use, wherein a combination of civic, state, and sometimes federal grant money is paired with local sponsorship, donors, and community participation to fund a public event.
Amid this long term change, we face two short term choices: 1) to close The Independent Marketplace while we wait for grant money to come in, or 2) to allow our community members an opportunity keep the Marketplace alive by help pay for the event. In November we will returning to the $5 donation that we requested at the outset of our The Independent Marketplace by selling tickets to the event. Admission to the event will cost $5 per person. Kids under 15 will continue to attend for free, and students who present a student ID will pay only $3 to attend.
Though we've seen between 2,000 and 1,200 guests per event, we will cap ticket sales at 1,000 tickets. We'll offer a $10 ticket that comes with a free drink, saving $1 for anyone who wishes to enjoy any of our standard $6 drinks. In future months, premium VIP (Very Independent People) tickets will entitle guests to enjoy additional benefits such as private tastings, curated gift baskets, and pop up dinners. We expect that the November 1st Independent Marketplace will sell out, so those who wish to secure a spot at our event can purchase tickets online before the event by visiting www.sandcityca/independentmarketplace.com.
With ongoing cuts to our budget and an increasing number of volunteers, artists, musicians, and community groups partnering with us to donate their time, it remains our short term goal to fundraise for our featured nonprofit. As we move toward this goal, our commitment is that 100% of net proceeds after expenses will be donated to our featured nonprofits. We want to remind guest too that the $5 ticket price reflects the minimum suggested donation. During this season for giving thanks, we encourage everyone who attends to throw a couple of bucks into the donation jar and give freely with their pocketbooks as well as their hearts.
We're terribly thankful to have enjoyed such support and eager to prove that the Independent Marketplace is worthy of survival.