As Memorial Day weekend kicked off under a bright blue sky Saturday, a new open-air market made its debut on the outskirts of Helena.
Located off McHugh Drive, just past Roadrunner Street, Sleeping Giant Public Market boasts an eclectic blend of vendors selling everything from jewelry and clothing to nail art and tortillas.
Charlotte Snyder, who operates Outlaw Marketing, shared that the idea for the market was initially brought to her by Dennis Davies, owner of The Nutty Montanan and Bradi Watkins of Beautiful Earth Designs. After witnessing and experiencing the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses, the trio of business owners agreed that a new market venue could help to get people back on their feet.
“The market is a way to help the businesses that suffered over the past year,” said Snyder. “It will serve as an outlet for small businesses to sell their products and make up for the losses they suffered.”
The new market has no intention of replacing other markets in town, but rather hopes to provide additional opportunities for small businesses to sell their products. Snyder explained that this will be especially helpful since not everyone qualifies to be a vendor at the Helena Farmer’s Market.
“People are super excited,” said Snyder about the initial reactions to the new market.
While Saturday’s market featured upwards of 20 vendors, Snyder explained that once they do some more expansion at the property there will be room for up to 100 vendors.
Organizers, vendors and visitors to the market celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. under a giant log loveseat constructed by Davies. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen was on-site to take part in the festivities and cut the ribbon.
“Having him here is significant because of his dedication and fight for small businesses,” said Snyder.
She explained that during the COVID-19 shutdown, Knudsen stood up for small businesses that were targeted by local health department boards.
“We as small businesses just want to make a living and he’s worked to protect that,” said Snyder.
“I’ve tried to do the right thing,” said Knudsen during the ceremony. “I gave some serious pushback to what I felt were unlawful activities against operations like this by overzealous health departments,” said Knudsen.
In catering to the family atmosphere of the market, West Mont Farm and Gardens had a pen set up with goats for kids to pet and a Softees Soft Serve food truck was dishing up ice cream.
The market's inaugural day featured a humble but eager group of vendors, and as the day progressed more and more visitors showed up to take in Helena’s newest community activity.
“We hope that our small businesses come out and are successful and get back on track,” said Snyder.
“This thing is only going to get better,” said Davies. “I’m not going to let you in on the plans now but let’s just say that what’s coming is going to make this one of the coolest markets.”
The Sleeping Giant Public Market is scheduled to run every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October. For more information or to register as a vendor, visit their website at sleepinggiantpublicmarket.com or their Facebook page.