The Sea to Sky Corridor has a huge and diverse wealth of local artisans working in almost every imaginable medium. But Squamish women Shannon Lorenz and Rachel Boguski saw one thing missing: a single space where the best of the region’s – and the province’s – creators could display their wares to the public, and where the public could access a one-stop shopping experience for unique products.
So, in 2011, they started Refresh Market. Except, when they started, it was called simply Fresh Market.
“We decided to rebrand and call it Refresh,” says Lorenz. “The idea behind that was basically refreshing our vendor lineup and keeping everything fresh and exciting was something we always wanted to bring to the event. It’s been great, because actually the name of the event has always pushed us to see what we’re doing new here – the percentage of new vendors, we look at the type of activities, the type of programming, how we are marketing everything. We definitely dive right into it in the off-season and think of new ideas to make it better.”
For six years, the pair has put on markets in spring and fall. Upcoming markets are April 27 and 28, 2018. In 2013, they launched a kids’ market, the next one of which will take place in fall 2018.
The Friday night-Saturday events have a different vibe each day.
“The Friday night has really become a bit of a locals’ night,” says Lorenz, “a fun, social night for people close by. We are lucky to have Kelly Ann Woods from Gillespie’s Fine Spirits, who makes up cocktails at the bar and we have a bit of a social evening while getting the first look at Refresh.” The markets take place in the West Coast Railway Heritage Park and food trucks outside invite customers to leisurely enjoy the experience and come and go from the market, relax outdoors and make an experience of it. The organizers are considering ways to make the market even more enticing, possibly continuing an approach begun at the spring 2017 market.
“We created more of a lounge setting,” says Boguski. “We brought in small cocktail tables and lights and plants and we had a tarot card reader and we just created this cool lounge space that people could have a drink and hang out and then go and enjoy shopping as well. It was such a hit at the spring market that we are thinking of expanding on that.” They’re also considering offering workshops.
Boguski and Lorenz are especially pleased at the connections and partnerships that have emerged from their venture.
“We have a really strong community here in Squamish but we wanted to connect that community with the public and offer something unique to Squamish as well as the rest of the corridor and the Lower Mainland,” says Boguski. “A lot of times what will happen is people who own retail shops will come and scope the market for up- and-coming makers and brands. Refresh is becoming more and more known as a place to scout out that new talent for vendors and small shops.”
In terms of geographic representation, they estimate that about 30 per cent of the vendors are from the Sea-to-Sky area, with others coming from throughout the Lower Mainland, Salt Spring and Vancouver Island – there’s even one vendor from Alberta. Product offerings are similarly diverse, including clothing, ceramics, jewelry, dry goods, vintage home wares, food and beverage, skincare, jams and chutneys, among other things.
“The great thing about Refresh is that we really are a one-stop shop for very well curated, locally made and designed goods,” Lorenz says. “Our market has quadrupled in size since the beginning. We have 100 vendors, but we receive about 400 applications from vendors wanting to participate in Refresh because people are doing great things and a lot of them are here in our community.”