Craft Market newest attraction

Three months on from the opening of the Cayman Craft Market, and it has become a successful tourist attraction and form of income for local artisans and vendors.

Craft Market

Lovell Marriott shows a selection of her wooden wares to visitors at a busy Craft Market yesterday morning.
Photo: Cliodhna McGowan

In fact, the market is luring not only cruise visitors, but seeing many stay-over tourists visiting on a daily basis, say vendors.

Although weather has hampered trade a lot since its 21 September opening, on the whole vendors are reporting a steady influx of visitors.

‘The tourists are thrilled with it,’ said vendor Shana Gocul, who sells a range of T-shirts, mugs, magnets and bags with photos of local scenes. ‘They love to buy authentic things and tell us they are sick of going into shops in George Town where products are made in China.’

While she makes a nice supplementary income from selling her wares Ms Gocul says there is the potential for her to make a full living from the market eventually.

Monique Polack, who together with her daughter Vanessa runs Cayman Sea Salt Co. Ltd., says that although trade has been really affected by recent stormy weather they have been supported very well by locals. Tourists are very interested in their stall also. The duo has a beautifully crafted sail-boat-booth at the market, which definitely catches visitors’ eyes.

In fact, many stay-over tourists see Cayman Sea Salt advertised in such magazines as Key to Cayman on a Cayman Airways flight here and go straight to the Craft Market to buy some.

‘They love our product,’ explained Vanessa, who added that their 100 per cent solar sea salt has also been brought out in a luxury bath salt version, with a hint of essential oil.

On the whole, the duo agrees that business has not been too bad at the market, but that they are taking their business slowly. The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s oceanfront café 7 is utilising their product.

Launa Batter who sells the rare semi-precious rock Caymanite says it is possible to make a living at the Craft Market, but only if the vendor is consistent.

The stay-over tourists give her more business, she says, saying that some of these come to the market each day of their vacation.

Ms Batter has been vending for three weeks and says the business has been going nicely on the whole, with some good and some bad days. Even when ships come in to Spotts in rough weather she sets up her stall in George Town, knowing that the visitors will still wish to shop. This is part of her consistency policy. ‘Be very polite to them and know your culture because they ask a lot of questions,’ she smiles.

Charmaine Coote of Annie’s Beauty Care Centre was busy doing hair braiding for young cruise passengers.

Coleen Gibson from Cayman Brac who is on Grand Cayman visiting her children, is also selling her thatch and Caymanite jewellery at the market while she is here.

Artisan Virginia Christian, who makes a variety of items, including shell strewn ornaments, aprons and bags, says the market is being received very well by tourists and she is looking forward to more vendors coming on stream once their inventories are built up.

Vendor Lovell Marriott says it is possible to make a living from selling wares at the market, although some days are not great for business. Many tourists initially wander over there to get information about the island, and then end up buying produce, she said.

Manager of the Craft Market, Jean-Eric Smith, known as ‘Notch’, asserts that another tent will soon be set up to accommodate more vendors. This will happen in the New Year. Currently there are 20 vendors licensed at the market and 18 more have been pre-approved and are busy building up their inventories.

‘Right now we’re at capacity, but the additional tent will allow us to accommodate them,’ he said.

One thing he is encouraging vendors to do is to be commercially minded, and, along with preserving culture and heritage, he is also advising them to keep in line with demand and not over-price their goods.

‘When they make things, they need to be aware of the clientele and not have the price margin too high.’

For instance, for products that bear the name Cayman Islands on them, if these are not selling because they are priced too high, then they don’t go overseas and can’t serve to promote the Cayman Islands abroad, as they should.

The rules of the market are set by the Tourism Attractions Board under CEO Gilbert Connolly, and Notch (on behalf of his company Youngblood Productions) regulates them as part of the on-site management.

Prices at the market range anywhere from US$1 upwards to US$70, with many prices in the $10 to $20 range. Wares include a wide range of products including homemade jams, hot sauce, jerk sauces, thatch works, wooden carvings, sea shell wares, paintings, dolls and jewellery.

Anyone wishing further information on the market can contact [email protected]