As the months roll on and, in turn, so does the pandemic, it would seem easy for an event like the annual Third+Bird Christmas Market to take a break. According to co-creator, Chandra Kremski, not so much. The fact of the matter is makers gotta make, shoppers gotta shop and, frankly, Christmas is coming, whether we’re ready for it or not!
Kremski was kind enough to take time out of her frenzied planning in order to talk with The WPG about the upcoming Christmas Market.
Please note that all photos posted with this article were taken pre-COVID, and that extraordinary measures are in place to make sure the event is safe, comfortable, and in compliance with all government regulations.
It’s pretty crazy to imagine that this started on a smaller, fundraising scale back in 2009 to grow into an annual go-to for makers & shoppers alike! Is this how you imagined the original concept expanding?
Never in my wildest dreams did I see Third+Bird growing into what it has. 12 years ago, I saw a major need/gap in the maker world. Being a contemporary painter myself, I wanted to give other artists a space to be showcased. I didn’t want it to be like other ‘craft sales’; I wanted it to be a market. It was important to me from day one to use different wording like “market”, “urban market”, “shop local”. Also, to create a community with the makers and really push the industry in a way that it had never gone before. This concept seemed to really strike a cord with shoppers and makers. Each year my goals and dreams grow with Third+Bird.
When was the turning point when you realized it was becoming so popular?
From the very first year, Third+Bird experienced growth; it was mind-blowing. The goal was to fundraise money and support local artisans. It was around 2015 when we knew we could no longer host it at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church (so) we had to move to a bigger space.
We spent months looking for a place that we could afford and provide us more space. We found the Transcona Country Club; we thought this would be our permanent home. After hosting two markets there, in 2016 we had outgrown the space and were back to the drawing board again! We got creative and pitched our market to the HBC downtown and from 2017-2019, we hosted six markets in that space. At the end of 2019, we had outgrown that space (and) are moving to the Red River Exhibition Centre in hopes to call that space home for the next few years!
You’ve been awarded not only with the Manitoba Tourism Innovation Award, but also with the 2019 Small Business of the Year Award and the 2019 Travel Manitoba Partnership Award. What makes Third+Bird stand out among even more markets and local storefronts opening up?
Third+Bird is not above any other market or store front, however things that are important to us and our brand are vendor care. We like to go above and beyond to take care of the maker community (by) hosting end of year Christmas parties, and providing them breakfast on Saturday morning of the market (sadly, with COVID, we can not do any of that this year). We make ourselves available to them, supporting them through ups & downs, celebrate with them, cry with them. They aren’t just a maker renting a booth, they are Third+Bird family members.
Something that is also important to our brand is making our markets accessible. Though we have admission at our markets, we are sure to host other markets and pop ups that are “FREE” to attend.
Despite so many challenges for everyone this year in particular, the annual Christmas Market is still a go and, no surprise here, almost sold-out! Why was it so important to you to keep the market going, even with the strict safety guidelines you need to adhere to?
Community over corporation. COVID has had many business casualties, many of them local mom + pop businesses. Large corporations who have a deep well to draw from can ride the storm. Many businesses, like my markets, do not have a deep well. Not only is it important for me to fight to keep my business alive, I passionately want to keep makers’ businesses alive.
I saw a lot of markets not only here in Manitoba, but all across Canada shut down. I get it, COVID makes everything 1000x harder and there are so many unknowns. However, for me there is no guarantee that this time next year will look any different than it does right now. If big box stores can figure it out and stay open, so can I, right?!
I have spent six months working out the formula, emailing inspectors, and re-writing the script on how markets look & run. It’s been so much work, but so worth it. Knowing that I can give shoppers the choice to support Canadian makers, give makers a chance to sell their goods, and keep their business alive means everything to me. I know a lot of eyes are on me right now. I’m the first major market to move forward (and) I have had a lot of emails from other markets in Canada and the US asking me how I’m doing it.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned this year?
My mantra this year has been I’m not moving on, I’m moving forward.
If you passionately love something, you will make it work. I have been working 14 hour days, losing sleep, writing massive proposals, overcoming big changes, and COVID on top of it all. If you want something bad enough, no obstacle will stand in your way.
Red River Exhibition Place looks incredible for this year’s market and, I think, your biggest space yet? Is there any intimidation in that?
No intimidation. I’m so excited to use this space to it’s fullest potential; in some ways I wish it was double the size! Right now with the current climate, having lots of space and making the market feel safe and comfortable is key. Shoppers will notice a big difference this year. It will feel like VIP shopping.
What can shoppers look forward to this year that they haven’t seen before?
This year we have 46 brand new makers joining the market. It’s important to keep things fun and fresh. Also, our aisles are 15, 20, and 25 feet wide. Lots of room to move around. In addition, we have food trucks for shoppers to grab a bite before or after they shop!
What are your hopes/goals for Third+Bird in the future?
My hopes are to get a Third+Bird online store, so shoppers who don’t live in Manitoba can experience and enjoy Third+Bird. I also have a big dream to start a Third+Bird subscription box!
For more info and to purchase tickets, visit their website today.