The incessant noise of the crowded Sterling Highway running through Soldotna faded quickly in a gravel lot behind Pizza Boys and the Shops Around the Corner Saturday where a group of five white tents clustered around a makeshift courtyard. Ella Fitzgerald sang about bringing her sweet daddy home as dozens of shoppers moved among tables stacked with a mix of antiques and art in a flea market-style shopping experience.
At the center of it all, a tall, white, elegantly stylized sign marking the new Swank Street Antiques & Art Market rose above tables and benches pointing toward a stage where several musicians have played throughout the market’s opening weekend.
Shoppers, primarily women, were treated to an eclectic mix of vintage-inspired art and true antiques, next to handmade art and upcycled home decor Friday and Saturday as organizers debuted a shopping experience designed to be unlike any other on the Kenai Peninsula.
“I wanted to keep it so that it wasn’t just another craft fair,” said organizer Jenny Smithwick.
Each of the large tents, at 44676 Sterling Highway, contained at least two vendors, there were nine total — each required to build a unique shop to display their wares.
The resulting blend is one that provides a bit of something for a broad range of shopping interests.
Mixed among the $5 vinyl records stacked in front of a $650 Monarch brand iron range stove, were birch bowls, stained glass and linens.
“It (has) been very good,” said Shari Blackman, whose shop Girlfriend’s Treasures carries items from several people’s collections. “(Friday) we were slammed in the morning and I sold probably half of what I brought.”
Blackman brought several other things to sell along with a pile of stuffed animals that she gave away to kids who wandered through her tent.
“It’s a great idea,” she said of the market. “We have all kinds of antiques, collectibles, knick-knacks and things.”
Another vendor, Heidi Hinz, paused to chat as she fielded questions from several people interested in quilts scattered around her shop, Polka Dot Petticoat.
The idea for Swank Street was solidified after Smithwick and Hinz met over a cup of coffee at the nearby Kaladi Bros. coffee shop, though Hinz insisted that Smithwick did all of the work to get the new market up and running.
“The farmers markets focus on the newer stuff and we wanted to stick with older, vintage and re-purposed items,” Hinz said.
Nate Carlton flipped through a stack of records as his girlfriend considered buying some 50s-era magazines.
He paused to pick up an Eagles greatest hits record and said the two had decided to stop in after seeing a flier for the market while in Homer.
The Anchorage man thumbed through the records and said he was primarily shopping because his girlfriend had wanted to see the market after the two finished dipnetting for the weekend. He paused and lifted a record, “Electric Light Orchestra, holy cow.”
Both Hinz and Smithwick said they considered the weekend a success, though it wasn’t without hiccups. Several musicians booked to play during the market-opening on Friday backed out at the last minute, but others stepped in to fill in the gaps, Smithwick said.
Several local musicians pitched in. The Charmers’ Daughters started their set midafternoon Saturday.
The next market, scheduled for Aug. 8-9, will have a few more vendors and a wider variety of items.
“We’re going to have vintage and other clothing,” she said, pausing to answer a question about Stefano’s Gelato sold in the Swank Street Bake Shoppe.
Smithwick said she could expand to about 15 vendors before running out of space — some of the current vendors found their way to her through the art market’s Facebook page and by stopping in at the Shops Around the Corner in Soldotna to pick up applications. Smithwick said she is a happy to provide a venue for local artists to showcase and sell their work.
“We have so many talented people around here,” she said.
Rashah McChesney is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.