Artists, crafters will get 'Sundaes' at North Side park


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Ben Falvo had such a big hit with the Sundae Market in Schenley Park two years ago, he almost had no choice but to follow it up.

"People kept asking me, 'When's the next Sundae?' " said Mr. Falvo, a Web development specialist who has a calling of sorts -- to help the struggling artist and crafter get a venue.

Spelled that way to suggest something sweet, Sundae Market will be a fixture one day a month in Allegheny Commons Park on the corner of Cedar and North avenues on the North Side. The fair is kin to the Handmade Arcade and I Made It! events and includes some vendors from those.

The upcoming market day is Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. DJ Nugget and DJ Nate the Phat Barber will perform. The rest of the summer's schedule will be posted at http://sundaemarket.com/.

Mr. Falvo, 31, a native North Sider, initiated the event during the Pittsburgh Marathon in May and expected 40 vendors. Eleven made it. Others emailed and tweeted that they couldn't get anywhere near the place and gave up.

Afterward, he said, "It's over, and I'm thinking about the next one."

Mr. Falvo is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and principal of the Dream Store, a Web development and marketing agency he started in 2002. He splits his time between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Zelienople, where his family lives.

He unwittingly started this sideline business by holding a roller skating party in 2006 for a bunch of friends Downtown where Dowe's nightclub used to be.

"I bought these roller skates, 81 pairs, from an out-of-business rink on eBay. We got close to 1,000 20-somethings at this event. It went from being an event for my friends to this monster. It's now in a whole lot of different cities.

"I did another one in Lawrenceville, and after that my phone started ringing to start doing events. But the event thing is every now and then," he said.

Robin Miller, director of the North Side North Shore Chamber of Commerce, said she thinks the Sundae Market's young following will provide a burst of vibrancy and should be good for business.

"We thought it was a good idea to bring more young people to the area," she said. At the same time, "crafters attract a great variety of people. It's one more benefit of living on the North Side."

The market will include no food vendors, and that is purposeful, she said. "We want people to come to the market, hang out a little while and go to the restaurants in the area."

Mr. Falvo said he makes money when he gets sponsors for the markets. He takes no commissions from the vendors.

On Marathon Sunday, the event got a grant from the marathon committee, and Mr. Falvo has a sponsorship from First Niagara Bank, but the majority of the money he spends comes from his pockets, he said.

"Some days I'm like, 'Why am I doing this?' "

For past fairs, he has paid for tables but now asks vendors to bring their own. He sets the market up in aisles and each vendor has a numbered spot. He also hires bands or a DJ.

"My market is free so starving artists can get in," he said. "This gives them a platform. There is an approval process. In the past we had excess jewelry vendors, so i am trying to push more people who are creating their own fashion designs and art. More ceramists and painters."

On the heels of the roller skating party's success, he got a request for proposals from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to bring an event to Schenley Plaza.

"They loved the idea of an open-air hipster flea market."

The two Schenley Park markets -- one in the spring, one in the fall -- attracted as many as 270 vendors, he said. He expects the vendor list to grow on the North Side.

He chose the setting, he said, "because I have a passion for the North Side and thought this would be a good way to get more people circulating through this beautiful park."

"Events like this help grow the culture of a city," he said. "There's a lot of programming for sports and other big things but not a lot of things for the small guy."


Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk .


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