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‘To market, to market’: First Weekend Handmade Market celebrates successful and safe reopening

By Staff | Aug 7, 2020

Shelu Patel, of Alexandria, Va., right, talks with Happy Cat Stained Glass owners Kathy Johns and Syble Rakowski, along with Raising Cane-Chairs by Geary owner Geary Johns, in the War Memorial Building on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — After delaying its customary April opening, due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the First Weekend Handmade Market reopened for the Fourth of July weekend in its usual location, the War Memorial Building at 102 East German Street.

According to market founder and Nature’s Inspirations owner Susan Halbert, the sales on that weekend were on-part with any normal weekend for the 12-year-old market, convincing her and market co-manager Kathy Johns to hold it again in August.

“It’s a month-to-month decision that we’ll be making, based on what else is going on in the world. Normally, we’re here from April through November, so we missed three months so far,” Halbert said, mentioning the final decision will be announced in-advance of each month’s first weekend on Facebook, and will be based on state guidelines and the advice of the Shepherdstown Community Club, which owns the War Memorial Building and financially profits from the market’s space rental.

This past weekend, the market operated under a social distancing mindset, requiring all customers and vendors to wear face masks and limiting the number of people inside of the market’s room to 15. Unfortunately, because it was not a holiday weekend, the market did not attract as many customers as it had seen the previous month.

“This is the summertime, when a lot of people visit Shepherdstown, and there’s just not that similar level of activity this year because of the coronavirus,” Halbert said. “The pandemic’s not holding us back from having a full house of possible vendors. We’re doing everything we normally do to advertise.”

Leathercraft Wonderland, LLC, owner Candy Quigley shows off one of her handmade leather face masks in the War Memorial Building on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

According to Halbert, business is currently busier on Sundays than on Saturdays, because shoppers are visiting downtown Shepherdstown for the Shepherdstown Farmers Market. One unique addition to the market vendor wares this year, is the sale of handmade face masks.

“We want people to feel like this is a good, safe place to shop,” Halbert said, mentioning she also had masks, donated by Mayor Jim Auxer, to hand out to potential customers who had none. “We also have two people selling masks.”

Johns, who co-owns Happy Cat Stained Glass with Syble Rakowski, was one of the vendors selling handmade masks.

“I made some for Hospice, and then began making them for the show when the governor said, ‘Hey, you need to wear a mask.’ They were my biggest seller last show” Johns said, mentioning she made about 135 masks for Hospice, as part of a group that donated a total of 750 face masks to the organization.

Johns’ masks featured a variety of fabric patterns and construction variations, including having ones for children and adults with and without spaces for filters to be inserted.

A variety of cotton face mask styles, made by Kathy Johns, were on sale at the First Weekend Handmade Market on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“I got sick of wearing the ones I had and I thought, everybody deserves to have some that are colorful!” Johns said of her fabric pattern choices. “I want my masks to make people feel good in all of this.”

Leathercraft Wonderland, LLC, owner Candy Quigley was also inspired to begin making face masks, when it became clear that wearing face masks prevented the spread of the coronavirus. However, since her business is focused on leather, she decided to make masks out of leather. Each mask has a space for an air filter inside of it, along with breathing holes along its cheek area.

“When it gets cold, this is going to be great,” Quigley said, mentioning she will be selling in Shepherdstown again this year, during the Ho-Ho-Holiday Handmade Market on Black Friday. “I was so hesitant to make it, but because of the pandemic, I thought it would be worth trying. These ones have a little more room to breathe than other masks, because of their stiff fabric, but they mold to the face and seal tightly around the edges.

“It’s better not to get the coronavirus, if at all possible. It’s better to prevent it until a solution arises and we are able to end its spread,” Quigley said, referencing her home country of Taiwan’s successful fight against the coronavirus by strictly following social distancing guidelines.

“You should wear masks just because you love other people, even though you may not be confident it’s necessary [to wear them],” Quigley said.