Thursday, December 9, 2021
Dec. 9, 2021

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Night Market Vancouver is growing up fast

2-year-old monthly event has more than tripled its roster of local vendors

By , Columbian business reporter
2 Photos
The Terminal 1 Night Market at WareHouse '23 features more than 80 artisan vendors, live music, food and fun for kids. Today's event marks the market's two-year anniversary.
The Terminal 1 Night Market at WareHouse '23 features more than 80 artisan vendors, live music, food and fun for kids. Today's event marks the market's two-year anniversary. (Adan Ramos Photography) Photo Gallery

Friday’s Night Market Vancouver will mark the two-year anniversary of the monthly public vendor event, which has quickly grown into a downtown mainstay.

The milestone also comes at a time when the market’s founder and operator, Jessica Chan-O’Donnell, and its host, the Port of Vancouver, are turning their attention to its long-term future. The market has about a year before its current home at WareHouse ’23 is scheduled to be demolished as part of the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 project.

The Night Market began its life in the event space connected to Boomerang Bistro on Main Street, which has since been renovated and rebranded as Tandem Hall. The concept grew out of a series of small, pop-up events that Chan-O’Donnell had begun hosting in prior months.

Chan-O’Donnell said she had previously attended market events as a vendor in Portland, but she moved to Vancouver and didn’t find the same kind of market scene, so she began running the pop-up events as a test. The Night Market debuted under its current name in October 2017, and quickly found an eager crowd of visitors.

“It was kind of just throwing the idea out there initially,” she said.

The market has grown consistently during its first two years and now boasts a roster of more than 80 local vendors — more than triple the number it started with, according to Chan-O’Donnell. It also features food, drinks, live music and entertainment.

If You Go

What: Night Market Vancouver

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday

Where: WareHouse ‘23, 100 Columbia St.

Admission: Free

The market convenes from 5 to 10 p.m., usually (but not always) on the first Friday of the month. A calendar of market days is at The event remains free and open to all ages, and Chan-O’Donnell still organizes and operates it with help from a handful of volunteers.

“I think the number one thing that drives me at the end of the day is seeing how one event can have such a huge impact — from the vendors to our community to even being able to benefit neighboring businesses — and increase the overall awareness of the region,” she said.

In the second half of 2018, the Port of Vancouver reached out to see if Chan-O’Donnell would be interested in organizing a night market event at WareHouse ’23 — the former Red Lion Hotel building at 100 Columbia St.

The port has a long-term plan to redevelop the area and replace the hotel building with a public market house. That plan is still years away, but the port wanted to get a head start by bringing people down to Terminal 1 and making the site known as a public event space. It also provided an opportunity to network with potential future vendors.

“The Night Market was growing out of their space up on Main Street,” said Mike Bomar, the port’s director of economic development, “and we were really looking at how do we start programming our space?”

A test run in September 2018 was successful, Chan-O’Donnell said, and at the start of 2019, the market permanently relocated. The move gave the market access to a larger and more accessible space, she said, with more parking and more room to expand the lineup of food vendors.

It’s also given the market the ability to bring in bigger events and musical acts, such as the DJ who will perform at the market today.

Unfortunately, the space comes with an expiration date. One of the first pieces of the Terminal 1 redevelopment is a new stormwater retention and treatment installation that will be built at the east end of the site, and WareHouse ’23 is going to have to be demolished to make room for it. That’s scheduled to happen in late 2020 or early 2021.

Bomar and Chan-O’Donnell both expressed interest in the possibility of moving the Night Market into the completed public market building, and they both talked about possibly finding a way to keep the market at Terminal 1 in the interim. The market and the port are actively discussing options, and Chan-O’Donnell said she’s also looking at other possible places to move the market.

“I’d love to stay in the downtown area,” she said. “It really depends on what’s available.”

Ideally, the market could find its own dedicated space, she said, which would allow it to install some permanent fixtures instead of having to disassemble everything at the end of each market event.

Wherever the market ends up, Chan-O’Donnell said she intends to keep growing the event footprint with more vendors, more food and a greater and more diverse entertainment lineup. She also plans to find ways to provide more support to the market’s vendors, such as through an expanded online presence.

“I want to continue being of big value to the local businesses we represent,” she said, “not only at the market but as a place for businesses to connect to the community and gain exposure, both in between each event and at the actual marketplace.”

Columbian business reporter