On a recent scorching Sunday afternoon, innovative beekeeper and owner of Akron Honey Co. Brent Wesley afforded west side shoppers an island from the heat and humidity by organizing the second annual Jefferson Avenue Market Day.
The tented display booths showcased cooking demonstrations and novel new products from Akron’s new generation of creative young entrepreneurs. These businesses are proudly touting local and sustainable partnerships that have woven a fabric of camaraderie and interdependence among themselves. Booths swarmed with curiosity and taste-testing.
Weaving between the crowds, eager shoppers relished the exclusive samples while watching demos of the unique fare continually sprouting out of our “New Akron” artisan businesses: The Akron Honey Company, Akron Coffee Roasters, Urban Buzz, Not Yo’ Daddy’s Mexican Hot Sauce and Sweet Mary’s Bakery cheerfully greeted Market Day patrons who braved the hot afternoon for a catch of “crafted homemade tidbits.”
Akron Honey Co.
Wesley, the strategist behind the Jefferson Ave Market Day, is a man of imagination and determination. Working full time at another job, he has skillfully brought east and west side vacant lots “alive with possibilities,” and buzzing new hives of business.
By placing bees at a variety of sites, he is able to harvest a unique honey taste from each area, reminding us that each year’s harvest “is as different as fine wines.” Saving endangered honeybee populations and creating educational islands that connect students to nature and local sustainability, he is “igniting the cultural soul of Akron, and making our hometown a place to brag about.” Third-grade volunteer students from St. Vincent Elementary School received a day of fun and learning at The Akron Honey Co. tent and exhibit. He said he hopes to expand the Market Day each year. Patrons liked the quaint size of this market and that each booth had a food demonstration. Watch for Wesley and Akron Honey Co. on Fox 8 News Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. discussing bringing empty lots to life. Visit www.akronhoney.com.
Not Yo’ Daddy’s Mexican Hot Sauce
Business and life partners Cristina Gonzalez Alcala and Richelle Wardell have crafted a distinct hot sauce based on family and friends’ demand to bottle and market their product. While on a golf scholarship to The University of Louisville in Kentucky, Gonzalez Alcala was forced to carry a bottle of Tabasco sauce in her purse because of the desert existing in authentic Mexican tastes that she had left behind in her homeland. Her father, who was a “wizard of distinct favors,” finally shared his own recipe for the family hot sauce after years of prodding, thereby launching a business that continues to grow based on grassroots local requests.
Just launched at North Hill Better Block in May of this year, they have already partnered with local artisans (like Urban Eats in Downtown Akron’s Historic Arts district) to use their sauce in their products. Order online from their Facebook page. Regular and vegan recipes are available.
Sweet Mary’s Bakery
Mary Hospodarsky has taken her special-order-only bakery of nine years to the street: not only the Jefferson Street Market but to a storefront location at 76 E. Mill St. across from the John S. Knight Convention Center. You’ll have to hold your horses and taste buds for just a tiny bit longer as the final touches are put on the downtown location, scheduled to open in just a few weeks.
The blending of two great products by entrepreneurs Sweet Mary’s and Not Yo’Daddy’s Hot Sauce garnered my “taste of distinction award.” Who would think of making a Spicey Granola by blending Mexican hot sauce and grains? Delicious and unique! (A gluten free version is available) Mary’s won The Akron Hot List # 5 spot for best dessert for, of all things, her wedding cake. Impressive for wedding cake, that is generally in a word — awful. Nice job Sweet Mary’s bakery, where gluten-free pies and cakes are also available. Rotating seasonal ingredients in unusual savory ways keeps everything interesting and local. As location is to real estate, ingredients are to baking. Only the finest are the benchmark of a baker who is an artist at her oven. Visit www.sweetmarysbakery.com.
Akron Coffee Roasters
Inspired by the rich and varied coffee roasting, blends and fragrant tastes of coffee houses in the Pacific Northwest, partners Albert Macso and Tim Hollister bring their connoisseur experiences and high standards to Market Day and Downtown Akron. Currently in the final stages of renovating, Akron Coffee Roasters will open a shop at 30 N. High St. separate but right next to Nightlight Cinema: a perfect marriage of independent films and specialty coffee blends close at hand. We can only hope the smell of roasting coffee fills the entire area. Macso stresses the deep, rich quality of their coffee which is hand selected from individual farms. The quality and flavor of newly ground coffee beans are vastly different than the months old versions of supermarket varieties. Search no more — freshness factor: 2 to 3 days. Roasting takes place on Tuesdays and Friday. Just in time for that lazy Saturday /Sunday special morning brew. Visit akron.coffee.
By far one of the most fascinating booths of Jefferson Street Market Day was this local business created by the symbiotic relationship of savvy bee business guy Brent Wesley and artisan candlemaker Kaley Foster, who gets the bees wax after Wesley spins off the honey, and beautiful creations launch from there. Foster gave me a lesson in bees wax culture that has changed my take on candles forever. I knew that all sacred religious ceremonies were largely lit by bees wax candles because of their purity, but did you know that paraffin candles are made from a petroleum base and fluorocarbons that release toxins, can aggravate allergies and that when bees wax candles burn that positive ions are released?
They also burn three to five times longer than traditional candles. Foster bases her business out of her Portage Lakes residence using 100-percent cotton wicks and Pure Essential Oils for aromatherapy candles. Her candles may be found at Land of Plenty, The Mustill Store and Live Dream Create to name a few. Visit www.urbnbuzz.com.
Talking to each vendor, I was able to sense and feel the idealistic faith in local sustainability and the devotion to each of their crafts at The Jefferson Market Day. The prevailing commitment from every business owner and attendee was the overwhelming desire to be a part of growing our local future legends. Tiny but mighty we can change the face of our city one new business at a time. Find your local Jefferson Market Day vendors on Facebook and Google. Also look for them at upcoming events at Square Fest and The Holiday Crafty Fair.