Carolyn Verikas is a maker, a creator, an entrepreneur, and a community builder. Recognizing a need for local artisans and makers to showcase their products and the community to gather, she and her husband Eric are working with the City of Bristol to open The Bristol Bazaar. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price found out more.

NAN PRICE: When we met earlier this year to talk about your startup Dusty Dude Woodworks, offline you had shared about the concept for the bazaar. Tell us about your vision.

CARE VERIKAS: The Bristol Bazaar is an indoor maker’s market that will be located in downtown Bristol. It’s about 5,800 square feet and very inspired by Las Vegas. When I say Vegas, our goal is for people to feel like they’re shopping outside in a bazaar atmosphere when in reality, they’ll be inside in a temperature-controlled space. There will be brick tile, turf, faux trees, and faux building fronts all around. Within that space, we’ll be able to support about 30 to 40 artisans—people who are making soaps or candles, working with leather or wood, there’s almost no limitation.

We’re offering three different options for makers who want to work with us. They can rent a vendor cart or a table, which will be in the center of the space—also known as our Maker’s Pit. The other option would be one of our “premium booths,” which are storefronts with an awning displaying the maker’s logo.

We’re making the set up fairly flexible because we want to showcase everyone in the best way possible. It is also worth noting that we’ll have a central register for all purchases, which means our makers won’t need to be present to make sales.

It’s a versatile space. In addition to having our makers’ products, there will also be a coffee/cocktail lounge and a space that can be used for classes, events, parties, and networking.

NAN: How have you been working with local resources to get this up and running?

CARE: Eric and I are very involved with the city of Bristol. I was recently elected to be a part of the Economic and Community Development (ECD) committee for the city, so now I’m even more involved, which allows me to get a better understanding of what’s going on around us with other small businesses.

I’m really excited about that. It’s teaching me things as a business owner and connecting me in different ways to different types of people who can also continue to help both of our businesses. Especially now with this brand-new business we’re starting from the ground up.

To make The Bristol Bazaar a reality, we worked closely with the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and the City of Bristol, which was instrumental in making this happen for us. When they received American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, the city did something very unique and special. They decided to open opportunities up to the community, whether it was a business, nonprofit, or for city usage.

Eric and I attended every ARPA meeting that we could. We tried to be present and let people know who we are and what our vision was. At first the committee didn’t fully understand what The Bristol Bazaar was and what it could do for the city and the state of Connecticut as a whole.

President and CEO Cindy Bombard and Vice President Katie D’Agostino from the Chamber were rock stars in advocating for us. They helped the committee understand our vision and see the value.

Dusty Dude Woodworks isn’t an enormous company by any means, but I think seeing us build and scale our business also helped the committee see what we can do. They realized what we’d built as two people who self-funded a business with no loans or grants, and we’re growing. It helped them see what we could do for the city if we were given a helping hand. We’re incredibly grateful.

NAN: What’s next? When is the anticipated opening and how can local makers get involved?

CARE: We’re hoping to be open early in 2023. It’s a very intense timeline, but that’s our goal. We’re accepting applications for makers now!

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