They say when one door closes, another opens.
But, in the case of Chrysta Garner, Market Manager of the Centennial Market, when three doors closed – those three being RBC, Easyhome and the Sears Outlet Centre – she didn’t have time to wait for doors to open, and instead started tearing down walls.
There was a lot of concern about the sustainability in the Centennial Mall Shopping Centre after RBC, Easyhome, and Sears closed. Smaller businesses that have weathered past challenges were worried about what to come. The last remaining major pillar – Value Village – would bring a steady flow of customers, but once one store closes, its all too easy for others to follow suit.
To remedy this, Garner wanted to bring a spark of life back into the shopping mall. Taking a page from the Antique Mall across the street, she organized an antique and collectibles show, in hopes, it would bring in a few extra faces.
The day of the show arrived and when Garner went to open the doors, she found a crowd of people waiting outside. The turnout for the show was much bigger than she would have ever imagined and was a resounding success for vendors and businesses alike. Suddenly, she knew how to save the Centennial Mall Shopping Centre.
That antique show quickly moved into the old Sears Outlet Centre, and with it came an expansion of size. The show would soon outgrow the hallway it was placed in, and walls were taken down to make more space. From there they continued to expand, taking up over 40,000 square footage of the building. The small antique market has since erupted into a market that includes anywhere between 70 to 150 unique vendors three times a week.
Everything imaginable is available at The Centennial Market. Visitors will find hot food and drinks, candles, toys, clothing, woodwork, custom t-shirts, jam and jelly, fragrances, blankets, and paintings, just to mention a few. The original antiques are also available and are just outside the main market, in a section colloquially called “Memory Lane”.
Often, Garner admits, first-time shoppers are a little overwhelmed by the number of vendors inside the market. Many are still shocked to find a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem inside the shell of the old Sears Outlet Centre.
Many of these vendors are unable to join similar markets – like the Regina Farmer’s Market – either because their product doesn’t match their criteria, or it doesn’t fit inside their percentage of locally sourced materials. This allows for a larger diversity of vendors, and of products, not available anywhere else in the city.
One of the challenges of running a small business is the inability to secure a permanent location and the Centennial Market offers this – along with fixed hours – for new and long-term customers. Tall Grass Apparel, for example, has had their business sky-rocket since moving into the market. Having a permanent location to meet customers, form relationships and make sales has transformed their company completely, and they aren’t alone. If you go to any vendor in the market, they’ll tell you the same thing. The Centennial Market has taken their small business into a profitable career.
As the months go by, the market’s ecosystem continues to evolve. I visited the market several times over the past few months and I’ve seen it grow both in quantity and quality. Lately, vendors have been setting up their own private “stores” – complete with doors, walls, and windows – throughout the market. This transforms a large open space into Navigable hallways. Quickly, the mall is becoming a buzzing hub of people and vendors, similar to Johnston Terminal in Winnipeg or St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.
Although the market has been open for just over a year, they are still making waves throughout the Warehouse District, and are hosting two major events this summer.
The first, on July 20th, will be a collaboration with the Warehouse Business Improvement District. Together they will be hosting Regina’s first ever Food Truck Wars. These food truck wars will pin chef against chef to see who the king of the Queen City food trucks might be. There will be judges, prizes and more than enough food to go around.
After the war has been fought – and the people have been fed – the market will be preparing the largest tailgate party in the city. On August 25th they will be setting up a 35ft x 25ft screen which will broadcast the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the BC Lions football game. There will be 50 parking spaces available for cars to sit and watch the game, but they encourage people to get out and mingle as well. Both Rebellion Beer and Outlaw Trail Spirits will be there as well, offering local beer throughout the night.
If you can’t wait for the food truck wars and the tailgate party, The Centennial Market is open three days a week, on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Many of the vendors take debit and credit, but remember to bring some cash along with you too.