Market Square market called a great success

Jolly organizers label

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If you want to purchase handmade jewelry from Brookline and felt purses from Nepal while munching on Bavarian-inspired treats, there's a market for that -- at least for today -- right in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The Peoples Gas Holiday Market will close today after a successful run in Market Square, during which weather yo-yoed from a miserable wintry mix and temperatures in the low teens to balminess that would rival a rainy spring day. The weather was cold enough to even shutter the market for a day two weeks ago.

In this its second year, the market opened earlier than last year and featured more vendors, who were housed in temporary chalets that will be disassembled at the market's close. It was meant to mimic the centuries-old Christkindlemarkt tradition in Germany, where artisans peddle their wares in outdoor markets across the country, said Leigh White, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, which organized the event.

"They look very similar to how ours looks," Ms. White said.

The goal, too, was to create another family friendly reason for people to come Downtown, said Russell A. Howard, the vice president of special events and development for the partnership. He's hoping that people will view the market as a more tranquil alternative to the jostling experience of shopping at malls outside the city's borders.

"This helps give people a shopping destination," he said, adding that the idea was to put "the holiday back in holiday shopping" by making it part of a broader experience that could include ice skating at nearby PPG Plaza, a horse-drawn carriage ride and gawking at the brilliant light arrangements and the Macy's window displays.

Among the things available on Sunday were jewelry crafted from coins from around the world at a booth that housed Cha-Ching Coin Jewelry. The Brookline-based operation turns coins from the Philippines, Argentina and several other countries into cuff-links, earrings and necklace pendants.

Emily Barlow, who manned the stand on Sunday, said business has been slower this year in part owing to the weather. But the market gives the company, which typically sells its wares at crafts fairs, an opportunity to pick up customers from regular Downtown foot traffic, particularly at lunchtime.

While merchants braved the outdoors when temperatures slipped into the teens, shoppers were not as keen to do the same.

Sagar Gyawali was working the booth for Himala Home, a Philadelphia-based company that offers purses, hats, jackets and other wool crafts from Nepal, including wool felt pouches with flowery designs hand-made by his own family in Kathmandu. He confirmed that the bitterly cold weather two weeks ago drove away customers, but they quickly returned -- some, more than once.

And swift business over the weekend made up for that lull, he said.

But for at least one shopper on Sunday, the warm weather counted against the experience. Matt Even, of Washington, D.C., was visiting Pittsburgh on his way home to celebrate with his family in Missouri.

He and his wife Megha decided to stop for the weekend in Pittsburgh because "we've always been curious" about the city. They were browsing the market looking for his father's favorite kind of German sausage.

"The problem is that it's feeling warm. I am having trouble getting into the holiday spirit," he said.

Estelle Taylor and her daughter, Susan, ventured from Eighty Four to enjoy the holiday market. For Estelle, the grandchild of Polish immigrants, the market provides a tenuous link to a country she's never seen but still feels a strong connection to. A booth was peddling Polish pride apparel and mugs, among other things.

The Taylors represent a demographic the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is trying to attract to the Golden Triangle -- people who might not otherwise make the trip if it weren't for the holiday market. Ms. White said a small survey conducted last year showed those who visited the market spent $100 there and around $500 elsewhere Downtown over the course of the holiday season.

The market will be open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on its final day today.

Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

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