Shop local. It’s a phrase that’s become common place, yet the meaning behind it is anything but. Supporting local businesses is so important, not just to our economy at large, but it directly puts food on the owner’s table: you are truly helping your neighbor provide for their family when you buy local. Jessica Chan, whose made her own living as a local business owner, has found her passion in helping get local products out where consumers can see and buy them with Night Market Vancouver and her new venture, Pop-Local.

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Night Market Vancouver is a monthly market that showcases local businesses. Photo courtesy: Night Market Vancouver

“We support those who dare to dream and have the passion to create,” explains Jessica. When she moved to Vancouver from Portland, she noticed that there was not a lot of support for small businesses. As a small business owner herself at the time—a pen company named WINKPENS—she saw a need. “Having started on the vendor side of things, I saw how important and beneficial it was to have a customer-facing presence, especially as a small brand or a business just starting out,” she continues. “I’ve had experience running smaller marketplaces and pop-ups in the past for events such as holidays, Mother’s Day, etc. Naturally hosting a larger event was next. Night Market Vancouver was a way to debut something new and exciting in the city.”

Much like a farmer’s market, the Night Market Vancouver (NMV) is a monthly event where local businesses can come, set up a booth, and sell their items. Jessica is strict on requirements though—she wants to make sure everything is local and that means no direct sales companies that are often seen at farmer’s markets. “We make a concerted effort to ensure all of the applicants we accept are local to the area and create their own products,” she explains. “Also, that they have made a genuine attempt to be as local as possible in that process—looking at everything from where the company is based, how and where they manufacture their products, and where they procure their supplies and their brand story.”

It’s clear that Jessica was right about a need. Located at Terminal 1 of the Vancouver waterfront, The NMV quickly grew to over 80 vendors each month, as well as live entertainment, including music, and food and drink vendors.

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Jessica Chan quickly shifted gears when COVID-19 hit to create Pop-Local, a pop-up show for locally-made products. Photo courtesy: Night Market Vancouver

Then COVID-19 hit. Of course, the Night Market Vancouver had to close. “As an event business that relied entirely on large public gatherings to generate revenue, Night Market Vancouver was entirely without income,” Jessica shares. “I was forced to pivot my business model in order to survive.”

They say to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Well, this maker certainly knew what to do with those COVID lemons: Jessica got a brilliant idea. “My primary focus shifted during that time to build a store to continue to support local makers, crafters, and artisans throughout the pandemic,” she explains. “The concept for ‘Pop-Local’ (the pop-up shop) was thus created to serve as a new home for local vendors, to showcase their brands and to bring their products to market without the monthly event setup, in a safer space, and without the need for vendors to put up booths.”

While the NMV only happens once a month, Pop-Local is a permeant store front, where accepted vendors can have their items on display throughout the month. The shop will have a wide range of locally-made items, from handmade goods including clothing and crafts, to food and other gift items.

Driven with a desire to help the local businesses effected by COVID, in September 2020, Jennifer opened the Pop-Local store in a temporary space in downtown Vancouver. It was an immediate success. “Through the dark times of COVID-19, our local community has helped us survive, and the support we have received from Night Market Vancouver and Pop-Local has been critical to both our existence and success,” shares Conan Miller of Conan’s Hot Sauce & Marinades. “Amazingly, we are geared up for serious growth coming out of the pandemic, and we’re excited to be in a position to give back to the community that has given us so much! Thank you, Jessica, and thank you Night Market Vancouver Family!”

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Jessica is planning on a permanent home for Pop-Local, to continue to support ‘Shop Local’ by giving local businesses a place to put their products in front of consumers. Photo courtesy: Night Market Vancouver

While Pop-Local is currently closed now, Jessica is working toward the next step of a permeant home for Pop-Local. The new location will be at RiverWest in the new Vancouver Waterfront. She is running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the buildout cost, which is estimated to be around $50,000. “My mission with Pop-Local is to fuel independent businesses, connect the community, and inspire a greater local economy,” she explains. “The pop-up location represented over 65 local brands and the new location will be more than double that, being over 2,000 square feet of retail floor space! This store will allow us to support and give a consistent retail home to so many local businesses!”

The money will go towards creating a retail space that is inviting for customers as well as functional for a wide array of vendors, this includes wall finishes, built-in shelving, refrigeration units and retail fixtures.

The Night Market Vancouver is now back up and running, so be sure to check it out in its new home at the Vancouver Innovation Center (VIC) in east Vancouver. To learn more, including how to apply to be a vendor at either location, by visiting the Night Market Vancouver website.

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