Portland Night Market brings Industrial District to life

Photo Courtesy of Portland Night Market

UNTIL RECENTLY, The Central Eastside Industrial District was characterized by its abundance of warehouses and trains. However, with the Portland Night Market’s help, the district has been transformed into an artistic and cultural mecca.
Newly established last October, Portland Night Market is an event bringing local vendors of food, drinks, retail and art together. It is scheduled quarterly, running Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. The event, principally advertised by word of mouth and Facebook, had 10,000 attendees at its first market. Over the course of less than a year, the attendance doubled, hosting 20,000 people at its most recent market last weekend.
One contributing factor to the event’s massive attendance is the fact that it is free and open to all ages, allowing it to draw a variety of audiences. “Portland Night Market is a place where people can come together and meet their neighbors, and it activates the neighborhood at a time when it would otherwise be closed down,” producer Sam Baker said.
The event was devised and executively produced by Emma Pelett, whose family business City Liquidators financed the endeavor. City Liquidators, a furniture warehouse, has been stationed in the industrial district for 40 years. Pelett was able to utilize the company’s long-established connections in the district to orchestrate the event.
Pelett’s position as a buyer for the company enabled her to travel in search of products. “Portland Night Market was initially inspired by Emma’s trips to Southeast Asia, where you can walk down a street during the day and have it be one way, then come back later and it looks completely different,” Baker said.
The women from Cargo were also able to lend a helping hand. A Portland-based company dedicated to finding artisans all over the world, Cargo provided valuable knowledge on how to transform its neighborhood into a night market based on their experience at night markets across the globe.
The event initially hosted 83 vedors at its first market last October. The event expanded to welcome 118 vendors this May and 148 at the last event this September. As the event further developed, so did the location. Originally based primarily in an old City Liquidator warehouse, the event now occupies much of the street surrounding the warehouse. The next event, a holiday-themed market scheduled for Nov. 18 and 19, will fill three city blocks and incorporate 200 vendors.
Vendors range from local companies such as Deadstock Coffee, a sneaker-themed coffee shop, to more well-known Central Eastside brands like Wildfang and Olympia Provisions. “Emma is an advocate for potential, so whether you’re making your merchandise in your garage, in a food truck, or have brick and mortar stores, potential is definitely a factor in how we select our vendors,” Baker said.
The orchestrators of the event do not take home any profits; instead, they devote incomes from vendor fees and scholarships to additional infrastructure. This includes both pragmatic expenses (tents, restrooms, security, etc.) and artistic expenses (DJs, pianists, etc.).
“A portion of the profits are donated to different, local community-focused non-profit organizations such as Portland Community Football Club, a soccer program that provides access to participate in a club environment with quality coaching and at an affordable cost,” Baker said.
Both through the organizations it donates to and the vendors it selects, Portland Night Market demonstrates its emphasis on community. The organizers stress that the event would be nonexistent without those attending it; it is the combination of vendors and attendees that creates the atmosphere the night market thrives on.

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