This Louisville Maker's Market Celebrates the Work of Black Artisans
Business owner Nachand Trabue grew up in Smoketown, the oldest historically Black neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. She wanted to help her community, so when she left her job at the local utility company to open an events facility, Manhattan on Broadway, she knew it had to be there.
"Growing up in such a rich community, even though we were underserved and under, [we] didn't have the access to things that we needed around health and wealth, we still had a rich community," says Trabue.
But when the pandemic halted all weddings and events, Trabue sought some other way to connect with her neighbors. She heard from entrepreneurs that they were looking for a place to sell their products but didn't know where to start. So she used her event space and hosted Black makers and artisans, inspired by Artists & Fleas in New York.
"It was supposed to be a one-time event called Black Business Matter Popup Mall… We had people coming, buying from the community. We had great food. We had great music. We had entertainment and people were like, we needed this."
It didn't take long before attendees asked about having another event and a renewed interest in buying both small and local.
"We started getting more people saying, the products were so great. And how do we buy those handcrafted candles? And how do we get those custom jewelry beads and necklaces? They wanted all this unique stuff. I'm like, I don't know, they're not in the big malls. They don't even have a store."
Trabue decided to give the market a trial run in late 2020, starting with once a month and then increasing to twice a month. It brought in 5,000 attendees with booths ranging from bath products to jewelry to furniture. Now known as MELANnaire Marketplace, it's Louisville's first permanent market to feature Black makers and artisans.
It was especially important for Trabue and the artisans to have a presence downtown.
"When we went through what we went through with Breonna Taylor, the whole downtown, it was a place where you just felt, you just felt disconnected. You didn't feel a part of. It was dark. It was like a cloud over it," she says. "I said, no, we belong here. We're going to be here. It's a part of our community too."
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In addition to the market's location at Manhattan on Broadway, there's a second outdoor market at Fourth Street Live!, an entertainment district on the site of the former Louisville Galleria, a popular gathering place for locals.
"We are trying to do our part and say, Hey, Louisville is a great place. And one of them is when you come, you get a chance to visit the MELANnaire Marketplace, to shop, play, eat, entertain, and have fun all in one experience with a lot of amazing Black-owned businesses all underneath one roof. That's and it's a great thing."
November 2021, the market expanded into a third location with 20,000 square feet of indoor space at Fourth Street Live!.