Kelli Lipson has run Spoonable Spirits, a handmade, alcohol-infused pudding and gelatin beverage shop, since 2017. She got her start selling from a tent at the Bronx Night Market, which ran on the last Saturday of each month in Fordham Plaza. But when the night market’s organizers, Masc Hospitality Group, announced its imminent closure, she was shocked.
The closing of the Bronx Night Market on Oct. 28 marked the end of a seven-year run of the first regular night market in the borough. To commemorate the last day, more than 50 vendors selling food and goods, and hundreds of customers, filled the plaza. One-quarter of the vendors were from the Bronx, and Bronx residents made up the market’s largest customer base, according to Beatriz Torres Martinez, spokesperson for Masc Hospitality Group.
With the market’s closure, residents of the Bronx are losing a beloved tradition — returning to the night market each year, with family and friends in tow.
“The Bronx needs this! Why’re they taking it away?” said Alecia Hunter, a customer from Williamsbridge in the Bronx.
According to Martinez, the decision to close was made due to escalating safety concerns, including the theft of onsite event equipment. During each market, unlicensed vendors also sprang up within Fordham Plaza, peddling nutcrackers, strong homemade alcoholic concoctions. As explained by Martinez, not only do these unsanctioned sales take away the business of vendors, they also compromise public safety as consumers get drunk and inebriated.
“Our events are more food-oriented and family-oriented, and these illegal alcohol vendors really jeopardize the dynamic of all our events,” said Martinez.
Some entrepreneurs traveled to the Bronx from different boroughs to kick start their business. The main draw, according to Lipson, was the welcoming community of vendors and customers, brought together by Marco Shalma, a Bronx resident and the market’s founder. Though Lipson now operates out of a brick-and-mortar store on the Upper East Side, she attributes her success largely to their support, and remains close with many of the market’s vendors today.
“It was a very accepting community of new businesses. It’s not just looking for the established brand,” said Lipson. “The Bronx Night Market was like a party where people go, and everyone’s engaging with the vendors.”
Throughout its run, the Bronx Night Market also provided a launch pad for new business owners from the Bronx, like The Bronx Burger Company and Angelique’s Goodys. With the night market closing, these entrepreneurs are now forced to find alternative venues. That could mean online sales, exploring different night markets and setting up brick-and-mortar stores.
The Bronx Burger Company first began selling their hand-grilled burgers at the Bronx Night Market in 2018, and has returned every summer since. After six years, Alpha Bah, the business’s owner, is opening their first physical store. Located at Hoffman Street, the restaurant welcomed its first customers on November 2nd.
The Bronx Night Market was “basically the test floor, right?” said Bah. “We were testing out the product to see how people are actually going to react to it. And so far, the response has been good, and we decided to go ahead and open up a restaurant.”
Other business owners are unsure of where to go next. Angelique Ervin, owner of Angelique’s Goodys, sells hand-crafted wax melts. Ervin does not drive and the Bronx Night Market offered a convenient location for her to sell her handicrafts. Alternative locations are logistically challenging — she carries three large, and two small containers of items for each day of sales, making subway rides difficult unless she has others available to help. Instead, she hails an Uber to get to markets in Manhattan, which usually sets her back by $40 per trip. She also opts not to sell her goods in Brooklyn due to the long commute.
“We’re trying to see where else we’re going to go,” Ervin said, adding that she hasn’t found another market that’s “convenient and consistent.” Due to the dearth of night markets in the Bronx, the city’s other markets, such as the Grand Bazaar in Manhattan, offer the next best option for her to sell her goods.
Lipson hopes that the Bronx Night Market will return to the Bronx.
“I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to come back to the Bronx. They always say that: they’re Bronx Strong,” said Lipson.