Success on the streets

Yellow Springs Street Fair helps local business thrive

By Tara Pettit

Photo: Yellow Springs Street Fair takes place June 13 in downtown Yellow Springs

Small business owner and Yellow Springs resident, Molly Lunde, began her entrepreneurial journey with two things: a passion for travel and a collection of beautiful trinkets she acquired from her time spent in the countries she visited. At the time she was a recent graduate of Antioch University, having traveled abroad in her college years with the cross-cultural experience program. And while she was certainly broadening her sense of the world, she was still searching to discover what it was she felt she had been called to do in life—using her education, skills and interests. She longed to continue traveling the world and found she took great pleasure in sharing little pieces of the places she visited.

That’s when her collection of trinkets became a source of inspiration. Because she loved sharing “pieces” of the places she visited by way of the goods she brought back with her, she started conducting business within the countries she traveled to, securing goods to sell once she returned home.

Places like Thailand, Bali, Indonesia and Nepal yielded beautiful ornamental home décor, exotic clothing and accessories and intricately handcrafted jewelry unique to their culture and style. While Lunde found sporadic opportunities to sell her goods, such as maintaining a seasonal booth at the Second Street Market in Dayton, it wasn’t until her first vending experience at the Yellow Springs Street Fair in 2010 that she developed her true vision to start a small business within the Yellow Springs community, the perfect market for what she had to offer. Asanda Imports was born.

“I think the fair just allowed me to think outside the box,” Lunde says. “I was working a nine-to-five job and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of an entrepreneurial, self-employment lifestyle. It really gave me the courage to do it.”

Lunde’s experience is similar to that of quite a few other small businesses in the Yellow Springs area and surrounding communities who got their start by selling at the Yellow Springs Street Fair, a staple biannual event established in the mid-70’s. The festival has a long tradition of working to support both established and new local businesses. Originally, it was a platform to sell merchandise in the form of a sidewalk sale; eventually it evolved into a highly profitable all-day event.

“It was initially a one to two time a year thing the merchants did for exposure and to create a more festive atmosphere,” Karen Wintrow, Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce executive director says. “It started with only local merchants and expanded to bring in outside vendors, becoming a street festival where multiple streets are now closed down.”

While today’s street fair boasts more than 200 arts, crafts and food vendors as well as a beer garden and various local musicians and street performers, the event still remains true to its original mission, which is to support the downtown Yellow Springs businesses and celebrate Yellow Springs in a fun and positive light, Wintrow says.

“Most of our preparation work for the street fair is to help our businesses have the best day of their year,” Wintrow says. “Driving business for our local merchants is what it is all about … showcasing all that Yellow Springs has to offer.”

Although the street fair now hosts multiple outside vendors, it still follows the original intent of the early sidewalk sales by providing an outdoor event that highlights what local businesses have to offer, while allowing the merchants a chance to “clear the docks” in preparation of a new season, Lunde notes. Local merchants were able to collaborate in creating a downtown-wide platform. This was not only beneficial for individual businesses from a sales aspect, but it also fostered an environment for creative learning and exploration as artists and business owners gained insight and ideas for new product line and marketing strategy.

“I think the street fair opens up merchants’ eyes to other possibilities … for things to sell, creative ideas…” Lunde says. “Now there are so many amazing vendors who come into town with so many forms of art. It can give us ideas for how to broaden our inventory and selection.”

Street Fair also functions to promote various ideas, ideologies and causes represented throughout the community by providing many booths for local nonprofit organizations to raise funds and awareness.

The street fair is also a great forum for local musicians and street performers to gain exposure in a community-wide setting. This year’s musical lineup features regionally celebrated bands, which includes the two main stage acts, according to festival coordinator, Alex Scott.

“Speaking Suns is one of our Yellow Springs groups,” Scott says. “They’re very loved by the people in town. Gin-Soaked Angels, one of my personal favorites and also very loved by the community, will be playing … they’re amazing rock musicians.”

Other musical artists playing at the street fair include local acts like Nasty Bingo and Grover, among others, while favorites Egyptian Breeze belly dancers will return to the south stage for their annual performance.

Unique from past years, this year the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce will host the street fair’s beer garden with four local craft brew selections from Yellow Springs Brewery. According to Wintrow, the Chamber of Commerce’s goal is to offer more locally-produced, craft quality beers while continuing to offer domestic favorites. Yellow Springs Brewery will be utilizing its newly acquired mobile truck with four taps to serve the local selections.

“We’re really excited about upping the ante by bringing more local and more craft to the beer garden and festival,” Wintrow says.

“If you like fun, you’ll find it at the street fair,” Scott adds. “It’s worth it to come.”

Molly Lunde will also be at the street fair enjoying her ninth year of sharing Asanda Imports to the fair’s crowd at the booth she has yet not had the heart to give up. She and her husband have maintained the same booth spot for all nine years, located right in front of the flower shop.

“We love it and it makes it nostalgic for us,” Lunde says. “It allows us to get into the energy of the street fair. There’s so much going on…it’s always nice to be a part of it.”

The Yellow Springs Street Fair will be held on Saturday, June 13 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in downtown Yellow Springs. For more information about the street fair, or to view the music and beer fest lineup, please visit yellowspringsohio.org/street-fair.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tara Pettit at TaraPettit@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Tara Pettit is a regional journalist and communications specialist with a focus on the arts, social/environmental justice issues, and community activism. She is passionate about cultivating intentional community and engaging in collaborative creative projects that make healthy community possible. Reach her at TaraPettit@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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