Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Winter farmers market amplifies holiday spirit

Dec 07, 2017
Photo by: Grace King Jo Sankey, better known as “the cookie lady,” converses with her husband, Rich Sankey, and a customer during the Winter Farmers Market on Saturday, Dec. 2. The market has two weekends left, Saturday, Dec. 9, and Dec. 16, before closing for the season.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Although the building was chilly, the atmosphere was warm during the Winter Farmers Market at 1200 W. Washington St. in Mt. Pleasant on Saturday, Dec. 2.

Vickie Messer, one of the market managers, walked around greeting vendors. Her hair tightly curled and wearing an elf costume, Messer was fully embracing the Christmas spirit at winter market as customers shopped for holiday cookies and potential Christmas gifts. Messer and market manager Mary Garmoe’s motto for vendors is that anyone can sell items as long as you “make it, bake it, sew it, grow it.”

Jo Sankey, known as the “cookie lady” during the farmers market regular summer season, branches out into homemade jar soup mixes and cocoa mix during the winter months.

“I come out for the socialization,” Jo said. “I sure don’t do this to get rich,” she added under her breath with a chuckle.

Jo’s husband, Rich Sankey, calls himself the distribution manager of their little operation. “Everything I touch …” Rich said. “As I carry it in and out of the market. I can’t boil water without burning it,” he confided with a smile.

Jo admits that her jar soup mixes do make great Christmas presents, but she doesn’t decorate the jars as much as she used to because she found people were mostly using them for themselves. “It drives me crazy decorating,” she said.

As Rich ladled out soup samples, he said he hates to see it go too quickly. “It’s my supper.”

Over at the table next to them, Vicki Johnston sits behind a display of dynamic pictures she’s crafted from magazines, adding glitter and various common items such as Popsicle sticks to make the pictures pop.

“There are days I spend five hours looking through magazines for inspiration just for one picture,” Johnston said when a customer commented on her low prices. “I just figure people don’t have extra money. I never consider any of my time in it because it’s just something I love to do.”

Her first year as a vendor at the market, Johnston said that usually her 14-year-old granddaughter helps her set up the table and bring all the goods in from her car. After each market, Johnston shares with her a percentage of their sales as a way to teach her about business and hard work.

Over at another booth sits a collection of jewelry and leather goods. Michael Renken, although usually selling crafts with his wife, Linda Renken, stood tall, smiling and greeting customers. Linda is currently recovering from back surgery, but she continues making jewelry, making bracelets and earrings for the winter market and also as prizes for Bingo at the care center she’s staying at, Michael said.

“They were sure gone in a hurry,” Michael said. “[Her jewelry] was the most popular prize at Bingo.”

While his wife is the jeweler, Michael specializes in making leather gun holsters, custom made for each individual gun.

“Usually I have to borrow their gun because it’s custom made to fit their gun,” Michael said. “I just pick up some leather and start working on it. I’ve gotten it down to get stamping and stitching done in about an hour. Some of the holsters may take up to three days because of the molding to the gun.”

Going over to peruse the jewelry made by Linda, Mary Beth and Dick Young said they enjoy shopping at winter market to support the vendors in the community. “It’s always nice to buy something that’s one of a kind,” Mary Beth said.

Phyllis Schraff said, although she doesn’t make it to winter market every week, she finds herself here a lot of Saturdays. “I like to see what different things they have,” she said. “I like to visit with people too.”

Near the door, Tony Guarino sat smiling at customers who took a look at his jewelry made from stones he orders from Brown Bear Basket antiques shop. Guarino was first introduced to making jewelry when he went to high school in Connecticut.

Guarino said he enjoys Mt. Pleasant, and in particular, selling his jewelry during the winter market because “it’s quiet.”

“There’s not a lot of arguing or fighting or anything compared to where I’m from on the east coast,” Guarino said. “It’s peaceful.”

This weekend, Saturday, Dec. 9, the Winter Market will be having a kids’ day with free cookie decorating and a Santa Claus. Winter market is from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The last market for the season is Saturday, Dec. 16.

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