Whether for better or worse, few sales can match the grandeur of Black Friday — a shopaholic fever dream characterized by long lines, sky-high discounts and stampedes of frantic shoppers.
But as the annual sale inches closer, local artists, makers and curators are finding ways to make this complicated, capitalist legacy their own.
Sitting Swan hosted its ninth community market at 4th Ave Food Park from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday. More than 15 local vendors gathered in the outdoor area, selling art and thrifted clothing alongside the park’s existing food vendors.
Advertised as the “Better than Black Friday” market, the event aimed to challenge Black Friday’s corporate chaos.
“Every time you spend money, you cast a vote with your dollar,” said Mia Crisostomo, marketing coordinator for Opus Coffee and 4th Ave Food Park. “If you’re going out and buying from these corporations, then that’s what you’re actively supporting.”
Crisostomo, 22, runs Sitting Swan with Alexa Cuk, who started the organization in October 2020 while working at a coffee shop in Orlando. When Cuk moved to Gainesville, Crisostomo joined her to showcase local businesses at 4th Ave Food Park. In February, the park hosted its first Sitting Swan market.
Now that the holiday season is approaching, Crisostomo and Cuk wanted to give residents the opportunity to support local artists while buying gifts for friends and family.
Crisostomo said Black Friday is just a marketing tactic big businesses can afford to implement by taking advantage of planned obsolescence, or the intentional creation of a product to be temporary.
“Instead of buying from these huge businesses that can afford to throw products at you, you actually get to come to a market and meet the people who made the stuff that you’re purchasing,” Crisostomo said. “It’s a much more meaningful way to spend your money.”
Local markets like Sitting Swan break this cycle of consumerism, she said. Community members purchase hand-crafted items and support local artists in the process.
Minca Davis, a 20-year-old UF advertising junior, was one of the vendors at the Better than Black Friday market, where she sold stickers, collage prints and handmade notebooks.
She started vending in October 2020 at the Bazar À La Carte vintage market and has participated in close to 15 more markets since, including every Sitting Swan market she’s been available for.
Davis grew up in Gainesville, but she said she only recently noticed the rise of smaller local markets like Sitting Swan. Still, she said she’s found a strong sense of community among other local artists.
Like Crisostomo, Davis said she found markets an effective way of battling consumerism. Especially among younger generations, she said, fast fashion is exacerbated by social media microtrends and inexpensive online retailers such as Shein and Fashion Nova. Markets make vintage clothing and art far more accessible, Davis said.
Reginald Nelson, 38, sold products from his company, Daily Burn Candle Studio, at the Better than Black Friday market.
The company launched online in April, selling all-natural, eco-friendly candles made from vegan soy wax. A candle fanatic himself, Nelson said he was shocked to find that the chemicals released from candle burning can be toxic to pets and children, and overexposure to fumes has been linked to lung cancer. With his business, he said he’s trying to bring clean, safe fragrances into homes.
“I have two kids and two dogs, so I want to make sure I’m protecting my family,” Nelson said.
As the owner of a small business, Nelson said that when people choose to shop local, they’re not only receiving a better quality product — they’re putting food on someone’s table. And as a Black business owner, he said he’s proud to promote clean living through candles, something he hasn’t seen many other Black male business owners do.
Compared to a Black Friday sale, Nelson said markets offer a more personable experience. Often, he said, customers will tell him the nostalgia of scents remind them of a forgotten childhood memory or a lost loved one.
More than anything, Nelson said, shopping at markets such as Sitting Swan brings something to the table that a Black Friday sale alone cannot.
“I think all of us local businesses are trying to show that we can produce the same, if not better quality, products,” he said.
Contact Veronica Nocera at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.
Veronica Nocera is a third-year journalism major, history minor and The Avenue editor. She spent two semesters reporting arts and culture for The Alligator and also writes for Rowdy Magazine. When she’s not writing, she’s probably reading, journaling or taping random pictures to her wall. Also, she’ll probably be wearing yellow.