Craft Market notches fifth anniversary

A Caymanian fellow gets out of prison
but can’t find a job.  Looking for work,
he sends out resumes to positions he is overqualified for.  After too many job denials and every company
refusing to hire, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

He approaches a local business for space
to set up a craft market — THE Craft Market. 
It’s his one-of-a-kind idea, new to Cayman, that attracts local artisans
and shopkeepers like him that otherwise don’t have a place to sell their
handmade goods.  Fast forward five years,
and the Craft Market is still chugging along while catering to cruise ship
tourists.

This is the story of Craft Market
general manager and musician Jean Eric Smith, known to all on the island as
Notch, and the 30 vendors that make up the Craft Market.

 

Five-year anniversary

On Friday, the Craft Market celebrated
its fifth anniversary at the current location with a humble food spread and a
carrot cake for dessert.

Most of the vendors were on hand to
celebrate their accomplishments and mingle with their co-workers.  The vendors sell local, indigenous products
and crafts like Caymanite jewellery, sea salt, conch shells, local and seasonal
fruit, woodwork, textiles and clothing, thatched and weaved goods, and original
oil-on-canvas paintings.

These are local artisans and craftsmen
who may not have the necessary means, patience or desire to fill out loan
application forms for a typical small business. 
The Craft Market offers them a place to sell their goods to the public.

“It’s $50 (for vendors) to start,” says
Notch.  “It’s a free trade zone with no
need for a business license.”

They’ve been at the current spot — by
the Tortuga shop on Harbour Drive near the port — for five years now, moving
from the Almond Tree location after it was demolished in Hurricane Ivan.

 

A cure-all elixir

One of the vendors, Ruth E. Bodden,
sells Caymania, the name given to variety of Desmodium adscendens plant native
to the Cayman Islands.  It’s a liquid
medicine that Mrs. Bodden sells to customers suffering from all forms of
arthritis, back pain, muscle and joint injury, and overexertion.  She says it’s a miracle drug.

“I’ve been using it since 2006,” she
says.  “It helped out my back ache.  It cleared up my sinuses.  It even helps with burns.”

“A burn will usually blister.  I rubbed this (Caymania) all over the burn on
my leg and put bandages over it.  It
didn’t blister, but the skin peeled off. 
Underneath was beautiful skin with no scars.  It’s a wonderful thing.”

Mrs. Bodden says that US pharmaceutical
company Merck wants to buy the drug, and people from the States who come to the
islands on cruise ships use it and want to be the US distributor.

 

Blend of personalities

Notch says he enjoys managing all the
different personalities at the Craft Market. 
He realises that he’s filling a need for the vendors as well as for the
economy of Cayman.

“These are 30 people that can now feed
their kids or take a vacation,” he says. 
“This was money that wasn’t being capitalized.  Maybe it went to Mexico or the next cruise
ship stop.”

Now it’s potentially being spent on
various items at the Craft Market.  This
helps the vendors, most of which are women, create and sustain successful small
businesses.

“My hat’s off to them,” Notch says.  “It ain’t easy being an entrepreneur, and being
a woman doesn’t make it any easier.  I
commend them for their drive to sell and make money.”

“For the most part, women have a better
sense of business,” he says.  “They’re
the go-getters, they see the bottom line, and nothing gets in their way.”

Notch says the most unique vendor is
Novelette.  She sells candles, but these
particular candles don’t just burn.  Each
has underwater scenes that she carefully crafts in candle gel, every candle
having a different scent, and when the candle is lit, it illuminates the
underwater scene.

“The patience, the creativity, the
packaging, the eye for detail and the value for your money — you can’t beat
it,” he says.  “The price point here is
under $25.”

That’s the summary of the Craft Market
— amazingly unique goods for an affordable price that can’t be found anywhere
else in the world.  They — the people,
the personalities, the crafts — can only be found at the Craft Market in
George Town, Grand Cayman.

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