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Handcrafted haven

Marion Open Air Market offers all things local

By Anna Oelerich | Echo


For Amie Pearson, it all started with soap.

The co-founder of Mama Pearson’s Soaporium in Marion and mother of three remembers searching for an outlet to sell her homemade soap and other natural skincare. When she couldn’t find a local market to showcase her small business, she started one herself.

“We moved to Marion in the fall of 2011, so I was very driven to help create a place in Grant County to (sell my product),” Pearson said. “Hence, Marion Open Air Market (MOAM) was born.”

Pearson founded MOAM that spring and has been running the show ever since. As MOAM’s market director, she recruits new vendors who share her passion for all things local. She also attends the market each Saturday of its season, which runs from spring to fall.

Despite its small-town feel, the market boasts 72 vendors that make and sell everything from flowers to fudge to zombie yarn dolls. It’s this eclectic mix of handmade items that echo Pearson’s commitment to an old-fashioned business model.

“I really feel we are bringing back awareness for the need to be able to talk to the person that grew or prepared your food,” Pearson said. “Our vendors are there each week, and customers are able to establish a legitimate relationship with the vendor and vice versa.”

The men and women who sell at MOAM make their living in the lowest-income county in Indiana. Yet their dedication to both their craft and their community is unmistakable. The couple behind John’s Kettle Corn, for example, uses the profits from their popcorn sales to fund missionary trips to Ghana.

Kingdom Harvest Farms, based in Jonesboro, recently started raising hogs using hormone-free methods. They now sell bacon, sausage and other natural pork products each Saturday at MOAM.

Several vendors have had such great success at MOAM they’ve opened brick-and-mortar shops, providing them with a year-round customer base.

As for Mama Pearson and her Soaporium, the focus is all on chemical-free face and body products. Pearson says her store’s selection rivals that of big-name shops, and customers drive in from as far as Indianapolis to get their fix.

“On our bath bomb wall, we’ve got 47 different scents. Our soap wall has over 120 different selections,” Pearson said. “I feel like a mad scientist.”

Pearson explained it’s the collaborative and creative spirit that drives MOAM to grow and thrive. She’s seen vendors take simple products and improve them for all of Grant County to enjoy.

MOAM might be one of the area’s best-kept secrets, but Pearson isn’t content to leave it that way.

“I’d just like to get the word out about MOAM—so many people still don’t know about us!” Pearson said. “MOAM is a great way to support local (businesses), in every sense of the phrase.”

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