The Thompson Barn in Lenexa was quite a sight last Saturday, as shoppers bustled around at The KC Local Craft Fair’s first in-person holiday market.
Organized and led by SM West senior and budding businessman Aidan Hall, the KC Local Holiday Market drew at least 1,500 shoppers who were eager to support local businesses and get some of their holiday shopping done.
The fair was free and open to the public. And it’s not over yet.
If you missed the in-person event, at least 60 local vendors will still be selling their goods at online shops you can access through Dec. 31 on the virtual holiday marketplace.
Before the fair started, Hall said he was excited to see it happen again but in person this go-around.
He has helped host two virtual craft fairs during the COVID-19 pandemic as a safer way to still support local makers and businesses.
“I’ve been very humbled with the response to the previous virtual craft fairs,” Hall said. “And I know as the world keeps on opening up, I’m excited to go along with it and basically start the first in-person craft show, welcome our shoppers and welcome our vendors, and get to do it all in person as it’s kind of meant to be.”
But when the day finally came, Hall said he was surprised with the turnout at the craft fair.
“I’m surprised by the support that the community has given me as well as all the other vendors,” Hall said. “The rest of the vendors were also very humbled by the support that they received at the event as well.”
A total of 45 vendors set up booths at the craft fair at Thompson Barn on Saturday.
About a dozen of those vendors had also participated in the first two virtual craft fairs put on by Hall. Almost all the vendors are based in the Kansas City area, with a few from as far as St. Louis.
Keeping the market nearly exclusive to local makers remains a key aspect for Hall, especially as small businesses have continued to struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve really just noticed the big support that everyone has given to these vendors; whether it be online or in person, they’re really focusing on shopping local,” Hall said. “Right now, they’re saying that you’ve got to shop early because you might not see the products you want on the shelves, but our small businesses, they’ve got a lot to offer. They’re always there for you, and you’re really getting those personal connections and supporting real people instead of the big guy.”
Products at the market range from clothing and jewelry to soaps and self-care products, plus a wide array of gifts, decorations and Christmas ornaments.
Hall’s neighbors in Lenexa, Glenda and John Hester, brought their home-based soap making business to the craft fair.
The husband-wife team behind Delyetful Soaps first started crafting and selling soap made out of ingredients like goat’s milk, shea butter, olive oil and avocado oil, as a hobby. Then, it became a side business, and every year it’s grown.
“This year has been our best year by far,” John said. “I’m sure we’ve doubled our sales in the last year.”
The Hesters credit their success to a loyal following of customers who appreciate their products.
“That and word of mouth I think has been our main source of increase; people telling people,” John said.
John said he suspected that the craft fair would be well attended, not least because he has been impressed with the entrepreneurship of Aidan Hall, who is a neighbor and friend of the family.
“I think that Aidan really has a handle on putting together a market like this,” John said. “He’s a smart guy.”
Many of these vendors have virtual shops, and some of them have products in local stores around the Kansas City metro.
Delyetful Soaps also sells at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market and other local craft fairs.
Besides that, Hall hopes to continue offering more craft fairs in order to meet the demand for local shopping opportunities.
“I’ve seen a lot of demand from vendors on wanting that outlet to be able to share their creativity and what they make,” Hall said, “and I’m just super excited to be able to house that for them and be able to share all about their products and their businesses.”