By Joshua Maloni
For a decade, former Angel to Apple owner Jamie Symmonds worked to unite businesses on Center Street. Most notably, she organized annual Black Friday events and street-long sales.
Though Symmonds closed her own shop in 2016 to transition into other endeavors - most notably Willow Consulting - she hasn't stopped promoting local mom-and-pops.
Last year, Symmonds debuted a holiday market at the Brickyard Brewing Company on Center Street. The event was a success, with vendors lined across the second-floor balconies, loft and banquet room, as well as wall-to-wall people looking for one-of-a-kind gifts.
Then, over the summer, Symmonds welcomed more than a dozen vendors to Academy Park, where she staged a weekly Saturday morning artisan market. Here, too, merchants found an audience, as Symmonds created a new platform for people to sell their products.
"Small businesses are the backbone of this country," Symmonds said. "It is extremely important to me to support and promote small businesses whenever and however I can. I was a small business owner for 10 years and I know the struggles that can go along with being a shop owner.
"When you shop small, you are supporting a friend, a neighbor perhaps, or family, which will then go back into your own community - almost like an investment into your community's future."
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Symmonds will stage a second holiday market - this time at both the BBC and the its neighboring flagship, The Brickyard Pub & B.B.Q. The event runs from 4-9 p.m. and again features a plethora of small business owners.
"The different vendors who participate in the holiday market are from all over the Western New York area: from brick-and-mortar shops, to those who do the market and festival circuits, and to those with a shop on Etsy," Symmonds said. "These vendors put a lot of heart into what they do, and I want to help them with getting exposure and letting others see how remarkable they are."
In 2018, "We are expanding the event to include both locations, which will be filled with vendors, raffles, drink specials and, new this year, Christmas carolers," Symmonds said. "The proceeds from the basket raffle will benefit Toys for Tots. To help raise even more money for Toys for Tots, a grand prize is being added, which I am calling the 'Golden Ticket.' The winner of the 'Golden Ticket' will win dinner for two, each month, at a different restaurant in the Village of Lewiston, up to $50."
Restaurants participating in the promotion include the Brickyard/BBC, Apple Granny, Carmelo's Coat of Arms, Casa Antica, Cask & Cow, The Como, Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen, The Griffon House, The Lewiston Stone House, The Silo, Tin Pan Alley and Water Street Landing.
"I am so grateful to the restaurant owners for wanting to participate," Symmonds said. "To win, you need to purchase a candy cane in hopes of picking the 'Golden Ticket' candy cane. Think Willy Wonka and winning the ticket inside the candy bar."
She added, "I also added some other fun things, such as Christmas carolers, who will be singing joyfully right outside and greeting people as they walk in." This is "in addition to a happy hour at the Brickyard from 2-4 p.m., with drink specials and specialty drinks just for the market."
Symmonds said she has high hopes for this year's event. She is looking to bring even more people to the event, all while raising money for a worthwhile cause.
"I am so excited for all the new additions this year, including even more amazing and talented vendors," Symmonds said. "I believe I speak for everyone in saying that we were pleasantly surprised and pleased with the turnout" in 2017. "From the moment the event started, people started to pour in. Of course, I was ecstatic, but, more importantly, the vendors and restaurant owners seemed thrilled with how it all came together. In the end, we were able to raise just over $1,400 for Toys for Tots."
Symmonds credited the local community, which, she said, continues to be "incredibly generous."
"For example, one day I was walking down Center Street with my clipboard and I was stopped by someone I knew, asking me what I was doing," she said. "I explained how I was going around town soliciting donations for this event, when he reached into his pocket, pulled out some money, and said, 'Here you go.' I am so very grateful, every day, to be a part of this community and the amazing people who live, work and play here.
Inspirations on Canvas owner Kathy Pignatora participated at the first holiday market. She called her experience "very positive."
"I thought it was well worth trying by setting up a 'mini shop' at this event as I was trying to continue to gain exposure in Lewiston, as I was a relatively new store," Pignatora said. "I didn't really know what to expect, as it was Jamie's first attempt at such an event, but I thought, 'Why not?!?'
"What a terrific night it was! The shoppers really came out in droves and I think we were all surprised by the turnout. I had a great night, met so many new people, sold some items and had a great time. I'm returning this year, as Jamie and the BBC did such a great job last year - I didn't want to miss out. It's such a fun way to shop, mingle and have fun."
Another participant, Lauren Szmak of Loti Henna Studio, said, "Last year's holiday market ran so smooth for a first-year event. It was at a great venue, had a great crowd of people and wonderful vendors and artisans to be set up alongside of.
"I'm returning for another year, not just because from the business end it was a good event, but because of the environment and how well the event is run. Jamie is able to draw in a crowd of people who can enjoy a bite to eat, grab a drink, and then walk around and mingle while doing a bit of holiday shopping.
"I'm so excited to hear that this year's market will be expanding to hold more vendors and artisans. That gives the community an opportunity to shop more small businesses and shop locally, which I am all for - not just for the holiday season.
"Events like this help us business owners develop a relationship with our customers and allows for future growth. I'm thankful for those that take on the task of hosting them, because it's not an easy job, but it allows me to interact with my customers and give them a one-on-one shopping experience. (This) also gives them the opportunity to ask all the questions they need to about the product they are purchasing."
Symmonds explained, "I understand, especially this time of year, that people have a lot of options when it comes to the many different holiday events and markets. I believe this market is special, because of the ambiance of the two restaurants where it is being held. It is the perfect space for a market like this. With a great selection of food offered at both the BBC and Brickyard Pub & B.B.Q., along with their own brewed beer and a vast array of other drink specials, what more could I ask for regarding the perfect atmosphere. Let us not forget the fantastic selection of high-quality vendors offering everything someone could possibly want for gifts this time of year or perhaps something special for themselves. And who could ask for a better backdrop then the Village of Lewiston to have such a festive holiday event?!?
"I love Lewiston - especially this time of year."