We arrived at the Fisherman’s Road Sunday markets at around 4:30am – the markets holders erecting their gazebos closely resembled zombies, stiffly struggling to set up their stalls. The Sun gradually rose above the field, illuminating the markets stalls that more closely resembled a temporary town.
My girlfriend Katrina, her friend Jacinta and another lovely girl named Courtney were running today’s stall, I was just along for the ride (I had nothing better to do than hang out with three lovely ladies). The girls stall was situated on two market sites, under a single gazebo. Their wares – second hand clothes, shoes, fashion accessories, were overflowing from the stall. As the sun struggled to breach the horizon, there was a steady stream of early revelers picking through the goods.
It’s an interesting feeling at a market before it opens, while everyone is setting up. There is a kind of competitive sense to the air, mixed with excitement. There is no point that a market opens, if there is a stall and someone is there manning it, it is effectively open. Before the sun could be seen in the sky, with the pale light sending long stretches of faint shadows across the ground, people were already shuffling through the girls’ clothing. Stall holders poke through their neighbours wares to see if they are in competition, men selling home wares snoop at those selling second hand utensils. The whole time there is a heavy scent of coffee in the air as seemingly everyone takes their dose to give them a jolt.
Before long money was flying and clothes were being ripped off the racks, with nothing over $15, people were getting grabby. I could not believe my eyes at how fast and how busy the stall was. I estimate that the girls had already made a couple of hundreds of dollars between them before 8am. Did I mention that the stall had nothing above $15.
As the girls helped their customers I noticed that they were taking shifts to go and scout out the other nearby clothing stalls, also run by young women. I was shocked to see that when each of them returned from their reconnaissance missions, they almost always carried clothing they had bought. They were at the markets to sell second hand clothing to thin out their wardrobes but were simultaneously growing them.
I got a bit overawed and felt in the way at the girls stall, so I took a wander of the market. I trudged in the mud down the alleys taking a peak at what else was on offer now that the sun was well and truly up. The vegetable trucks were unloaded and a colourful arrange of produce were on display.
I have always been interested in the type of people that markets attract. They are a diverse range, so you can’t exactly pin down a “type” of person, but generally they are socially aware, friendly and conversational people. The people are often as diverse as the range of market stalls. Two old blokes who had run separate stalls for the last 14 years, a Frenchman selling fresh produce, a Chinese family selling traditional food, a knife-sharpener and teenage girls face painting. The smells, sights and sounds of the markets, together with the people and their accents, smiles and stories made me glad that we still have these places and made convinced me further as to the benefits they bring.
In the last couple of years I have grown aware of the honest benefits to buying produce from markets. Not only does your money go directly to someone who is investing in their community, but your money goes to farmers who are also based in the community. The bread stall is run by the same lady who kneaded the bread through the night, not warmed up after it was pre-baked on the other side of the world. A weekend market literally sells everything you can buy from a big chain supermarket, except for packaged and dry goods.
After doing the rounds and chatting to a couple of stall holders, I made my way back to the girls. Their stall was still overflowing with people. They were making a great trade and full of smiles. I hung around for a while until I got a bit hungry, and left to devour an bacon and egg roll as well as a tub local yoghurt with muesli – both bought at stalls down the alley.
As the day passed by so did the crowd – People with dogs, people with their partners, the children, their grandparents, and people with their friends. I love to people watch and a market definitely is the place to check out the latest in trendy (and not-so) fashions.
By midday the girls were tired and the crowd was thinning out, hawkers (stall holders yelling to sell their wares) were signaling their final mark downs to clear out their stock and we were similarly trying to get rid of what was left. The girls still had plenty for sale, including much of what they thought would sell the quickest. I realised they really had a lot of clothing to sell but they had still sold much more. Hundreds of dollars were made (or recouped, depending on how you look at it) and the day was by far a success.
I have learnt lately that if everybody did a small bit to support local produce and business, it is of immense benefit to the community. Spending you money locally keeps the immediate economy healthy. We have forgotten how to grow our own vegetables and thus missed out on the joys of swapping with our neighbours. Somewhere along the line we have lost what it is to be a community. Go to a local weekend markets and feel the vibe, cast away the shackles of the big chain supermarkets and chat to the fresh produce bloke – he will help you out. He may even throw in some avocados if you smile.