Sustainability is important to many across the U.S., and the citizens of Duluth, Minnesota are certainly no exception. Recognizing that the community feels passionately about living a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle, UMD Stores collaborates with both the University of Minnesota-Duluth and other local businesses to support several initiatives that are making campus even greener.
For example, the stores have sponsored a local Farmer’s Market on campus for the past seven years. Hosted from mid May to the end of September, the weekly event known as UMD Market Day in the Plaza unites local vendors who offer everything from fresh vegetables to beautiful flowers.
“Wednesdays are a big Farmer’s Market Day in Duluth,” explained Teri Glembin, UMD Stores Marketing Coordinator. “There’s a city-wide market down the hill from campus which is open until noon, so we thought it would be great to continue the event on campus during the afternoon. It makes for a full day of business for our Farmers and even more opportunity to shop for our community; it’s really a win-win.”
Because the community believes so strongly in supporting sustainable living, the on-campus market accepts a variety of payment methods, including an EBT program.
“We want everyone to have access to fresh and healthy options, so that is very important to us,” Glembin added.
The event also offers space to vendors who sell their locally-made arts and crafts products.
“We have a wonderful art community in Duluth and, as a result, there are so many unique creations at Market Day each week,” she said. “I’ve seen everything from handmade soap to jewelry.”
Adding to the event, many of the artists put on a show for attendees by demonstrating their craft of choice.
“We’ve had a vendor come out and do glass blowing, another who was weaving on her loom, someone spinning pottery and so much more; it’s so interesting to watch!”
With an average of 25 vendors in attendance each week, Glembin says Market Day has become a way for new businesses in town to network with potential customers and expand their reach.
“Most vendors seek us out on their own, which is great,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way for them to mingle with the community and get their name out there.”
Vendors include much more than just community members, however. During the school year, students get involved by selling or promoting their on-campus groups’ products and events.
“For instance, the Multicultural group comes by every year to sell items that represent their ethnicity or heritage but that have been made using locally-produced supplies,” she explained. “It’s a great way for them to support their organization.”
Live music featuring a different local musician each week creates a unique and entertaining atmosphere. UMD Stores partners with their campus’ Student Life department to provide a variety of artists who specialize in different musical genres and styles.
“We’ve had some big names play here in the past, and it definitely draws a crowd. But, we also have some great talent right here on campus,” she explained. “For example, Jimi Cooper who teaches in the Music department has performed in the past, Dan Burrows from our IT department plays beautiful guitar, and one of our own bookstore employees who goes by DJ Mouse played at Market Day. We get a real mix of music, and attendees love that.”
Further promoting sustainability, the event often partners with other eco-friendly initiatives to show support. For example, UMD Market Day in the Plaza teamed up with the Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity by hosting the launch of their Habitat 500 Bike Ride, an event in which dedicated cyclists ride 500 miles in support of Habitat for Humanity.
“Riders from the Twin Ports Habitat 500 Team were at Market Day and they sold t-shirts with all proceeds going to the local Habitat projects,” she said. “A local bicycle shop, Twin Ports Cyclery, also stopped by and offered free bike tune ups. It’s always really nice to bring together companies, organizations, and the community for one great cause.”
By providing discounts, UMD Stores gets involved in Market Day, too. Every Wednesday during the event, they offer 20% off one regularly priced item when customers bring in a reusable bag as well as half price fountain pop and hot beverages.
Because the store is located at the front of campus, it makes an ideal backdrop for the weekly event.
“After we remodeled and became a street-level store, our new location was a link between campus and the residence halls,” Glembin described. “The city bus stop is right out front, too, so we have plenty of traffic coming from the surrounding community. It was the perfect hot spot to bring everyone together and welcome them to Market Day.”
Although Market Day does promote traffic in the stores, Glembin believes the biggest benefit is the connection that they’ve been able to develop with the campus and community as a result.
“It’s become a very well respected event and people appreciate all that we do to support local businesses, farmers, organizations and the city as a whole,” she said. “It’s exciting, fun, fresh, and very friendly; everyone looks forward to it because there’s always something new. The fact that our stores can have a part in providing that experience is really invaluable.”
As for the future, Glembin believes Market Day in the Plaza will continue to thrive for years to come.
“It’s grown so much over the years and become such a unique event,” she said. “Our attendees range in age from children to senior citizens and everyone in between. It just goes to show that our community really believes in this healthy lifestyle and that’s something I don’t think will go away anytime soon.”
How does your store support sustainability? Share your strategies in the comment section below!