June 24,  2008

Sticky Bottom Market in Hatteras village features handmade and homegrown items


You’ve heard all of the slogans.  “Think globally, act locally.”  “Slow Food.”  “Deep Economy.”  “Creative Frugality.”  “Shop Main Street.”   They may have not struck a note with you, but what if you could find handmade art and crafts or homemade preserves or homegrown vegetables and plants, all on Hatteras Island?  What if buying items at this market meant that you could visit and support island residents while deepening a sense of community?

Sticky Bottom Handmade Homegrown Market in Hatteras offers this and much more to visitors and residents, every Wednesday from 4 until 8 p.m. in Hatteras village.

Resurrected from the Sticky Bottom Arts and Crafts Show of the late 1970s by JoEllen Willis and Belinda Willis (they are sisters-in-law by marriage), the market promotes creative living, be it through handcrafts, cooking, or gardening. 

“It’s a venue for people who make and grow things to supplement their income,” explains JoEllen. 

“With so many talented people on Hatteras, we felt we lacked an outlet for anyone to have an opportunity to share their talent in the arts or whatever media they had to promote themselves,” says Belinda.

Both Belinda and JoEllen have creative backgrounds, so seeing the creative spark in others is not difficult.
“I grew up in an artist household, and art has always been part of my life.  My parents owned an art gallery, so we, as kids, spent many hours working in the shop,” Belinda says.

JoEllen previously worked as a photographer for Shooters on the Beach.  But she is not selling pictures at the market.  Her current medium is beaded jewelry.

“My daughter and I started making earrings, but then she went away to school,” said JoEllen.  “I was left with a surplus of beading supplies.  A friend suggested, ‘Why don’t you set up a lemonade stand and instead sell earrings?’”

It sparked a thought.  JoEllen knows many residents creating handcrafts and art without sufficient inventory to supply a gallery or store regularly, but would enjoy selling their products.   She also liked the idea of a farmer’s market where people sell their surplus produce.

She approached her sister-in-law about the idea.  Belinda had been mulling through the same idea, but did not have the time to commit to a project with the summer season approaching.  Belinda agreed to let the market use the open space across from the Lee Robinson General Store, which she and her husband, Virgil, own in Hatteras.  Shaded by a grove of oak trees and close enough to enjoy the first rays of an evening sunset, the spot seemed perfect for an open-air market.  

The two also reminisced about the “old” Sticky Bottom Arts and Craft Show they participated in during the late 1970s.  

“Sticky Bottom” is the name for the lower part of Hatteras village that islanders have used for years.  Even though there are marshes and wetlands throughout the village, there are more low marshy places in the lower village. JoEllen says her mother-in-law told her that the residents would run from one high-spot to the other, trying not to get stuck in the “sticky bottom.”

Belinda contacted Vanessa Trant of Hatteras, who designed the original Sticky Bottom logo in the ‘70s, to see if the name and logo could be revived.  Trant agreed and the project was off.

There are few ground rules for the market.  There is a $10 fee for space, but the main rule is that the vendors are Hatteras Island residents, making it the local market they envisioned.
 “I want to keep it fluid,” says JoEllen.  “We don’t want it to become super regulated.”
The fluidity isn’t just about the market’s structure.  It’s about vendors and products as well. JoEllen points out that garden produce varies throughout the season, and folks may have commitments.  This means that each week the market’s vendors will vary.

“It’s kind of wide open,” she explains.  “We want people to be entrepreneurial and creative.  We’ve had people sell everything from art to handcrafts to homemade dog treats.”

She rattles off ideas of items she knows that island residents create and produce: jewelry, art, cards, sauces, fig preserves, flavored oils and vinegars, and baked goods.  Even a shaved ice stand would draw folks into the market, she believes.

The draw for vendors clearly is being able to spend little for a venue to sell a few items.

Carol Gaidos and her husband, Roberto, of Frisco, clearly saw the opportunity. “Everyone always tells him that his barbecue sauce is so good that he should sell it.  So we thought we would try it [the market],” Carol says.  “He’s behind the scenes.  I’m the social one.”

Conversation between vendors and customers is a key part of any market.  People enjoy getting to know the person behind the product.  Knowing how and where food or art is produced, especially something new, different or even nostalgic (like fig preserves) is something people reflect on each time they open a jar, pass a plant, or look at a piece of art.

“Tourists enjoy talking to residents and hearing their stories.  The market gives them a place to ask questions and for people to share,” says JoEllen

The market isn’t just for tourists to visit.  Locals stop in, too.  Even the vendors appreciate chatting with one another.

Jason Alitzer moved to Frisco in September, 2007, and is selling distinctive surf-style decorated recycled bottles and shell candleholders and piggy banks.  “I’ve gotten to meet lots of new people,” he says.  He is also a link to the past.  “I’m Vanessa Trant’s cousin, so I’m here keeping up the tradition.”

Blending tradition with new ideas and old recipes for community and creativity, the market ties into larger movements about community economic development and sustainability, an idea to which every resident of Hatteras Island can relate    .

The Sticky Bottom Handmade Homegrown Market is held every Wednesday evening from 4 – 8 p.m. across from Lee Robinson General Store on Highway 12 in the heart of Hatteras village.  The market invites crafters, artists, bakers, gardeners and entrepreneurs from all over the island. There is no commitment required for a weekly presence, but the $10 per site fee is due the day of the market.  The fee is used to off-set publicity costs for signage and flyers.  A portion of the funds will be donated to local charities at the end of the summer.  Vendors can contact JoEllen Willis at 986-2641 with questions or ideas. 

Comments are always welcomed!

     Subject :

     Name :  (required)

     Email :  (required, will not be published)

     City :   (required)    State :   (required)

     Your Comments:

May be posted on the Letters to the Editor page at the discretion of the editor.