Businesses of all sizes are vying to be featured in the wildly popular Soda City Market. The event takes over Main Street in Columbia each Saturday and looks to be a mainstay thanks to its wide array of shopping and entertainment options.
by Calvin Mitchener
Nov. 17th, 2017
Every Saturday, Columbia’s Main Street comes alive to the beat of the thriving Soda City Market. The street market has steadily grown in popularity since its inception in 2012 and recently expanded into the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Main Street.
The market features a myriad of entrepreneurs ranging from farmers to artists and fashion retailers. During the event, Main Street is adorned with food trucks and colorful tents displaying a seemingly endless array of wares.
Not just anyone can set up shop at the market, however. Potential vendors must complete a multi-step application process in order to be featured. The vendors range from small startups to more established retailers, but being in the market allows them to reach a wide customer base. Given the popularity of the market and the recent expansion, the customer interaction has been beneficial to many of the businesses.
Francis Lee is the owner of Gorilla Boost, a local business that sells plant-based “superfoods” or foods rich in certain vitamins and nutrients. Lee does not have a brick-and-mortar store so she values the business she gets from her tent at Soda City.
“I love the energy of Soda City and the exposure is great for my business,” said Lee.
Lee started her company after she had to make special food recipes to accommodate her nephew’s food allergies. She hopes being featured at Soda City will help her expand her company one day.
Some businesses have already begun to the reap financial benefits of being at the Soda City Market. Stacy Nicholson and her husband Julian run 19 Acres Candles. Nicholson described how being featured in the Soda City Market has allowed her business to grow.
“We fell in love with it (Soda City). Since we brought our business here in January we have been able to expand our product and offer more candles and bath products,” Nicholson said.
Since starting with one tent, Nicholson and her husband now have an additional tent at Soda City in which they offer their candles and other assorted bath products.
The popularity of Soda City has even attracted businesses from outside the Columbia area. Brit Misenheimer runs her company, CLT Boutique, out of Charlotte, N.C. but comes to Soda City Market every weekend. Misenheimer raved about the benefit her boutique has gotten from being at Soda City.
“I have never gone home disappointed, it’s something I can count on every week,” Misenheimer said.
Misenheimer believes the organizers of Soda City Market should keep tabs on the companies and the revenue they receive from the market.
“I wish they would survey the businesses here and record their profit. The amount of money being put back into the local economy has to be tremendous,” Misenheimer said.
The benefit provided to the local economy is one of the aspects that makes Soda City Market vital to downtown Columbia, said Ryan Coleman, director for Columbia’s Office of Economic Development.
“People are not just going to the market, a lot of them are going to other restaurants and businesses downtown which benefits the local economy,” said Coleman.
Coleman also believes the success of Soda City Market could be due in part to a growing trend.
“If you look at national trends, farmers markets are hot right now. People want their produce fresh and locally grown,” said Coleman.
Soda City Market is open for business every Saturday from nine a.m. to one p.m.