In 2019, the Bronx Night Market had its biggest year ever when more than 150,000 visitors came to enjoy its selection of global cuisine from local New York City vendors. The market was set for another recording-breaking year in 2020 when COVID-19 hit, wreaking havoc on New York City’s food industry. Working with local government agencies to implement safety procedures, the Bronx Night Market became the only open-air market to operate in New York City last year. As the Night Market prepares to return for the 2021 season, you can get an inside look at New York City’s food and micro-business scene with Bronx Night Market co-founder Marco Shalma in our upcoming virtual talk! Untapped New York sat down with Shalma to get a sneak peek what’s ahead in 2021!
“COVID-19 changed everything for us,” Shalma remarks. Instead of following through with plans to expand the market, such as opening pop-ups in different neighborhoods around the Bronx, the Night Market team had to find new ways to support its community of vendors and Bronx residents. “It was a mission,” Shalma says of opening the market in 2020. “It was so much easier not to do it,” he says, but there was a responsibility to give back to the community, who Shalma credits with the Night Market’s success. “They welcomed us with open arms, they trusted us, they keep showing their loyalty and support to us continuously and so coming back last year, in whatever format we were able to, it was our duty.”
Inside NYC’s Foodie Scene
The shortened 2020 season provided participating vendors, who are predominately female, immigrant, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ business owners, with an opportunity to connect with customers when all other markets were closed. The Night Market team also worked to connect vendors with resources to help navigate unemployment, small business loans, and other obstacles brought about by the pandemic. “We consider ourselves a community-based organization first and foremost,” says Shalma, “and that was most important. We knew we had to support [our vendors] as much as we could.” For community members, the return of the Night Market brought some sense of normalcy during a turbulent time.
The Bronx Night Market is looking forward to continuing its “celebration of culture, cuisine, and community” in 2021. The Night Market opens April 3rd and runs all the way through November 13th, its longest season yet. In addition to the more than twenty different food vendors, live musical performances, and tasting menus, the Market will also run a series of community programs to support local entrepreneurs.
One program is an incubator for “hometrepreneurs,” young entrepreneurs looking to possibly turn their hobby or side hustle into a full-fledged business. Participants will learn about marketing, how to price their items, how to interact with customers and other facets of running a business. Another program debuting in 2021, in partnership with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, will highlight brick-and-mortar stores in the Bronx, helping to spread the word about local businesses that may not be regulars at the Night Market.
“We are working on programming with sustainability, home cooks, healthy eating, all of those programs are going to be part of the market this year,” says Shalma, “There’s going to be a lot of fun!” You can expect to see lots of giveaways, raffles, family activities, and more. You can book your free reservation to visit the Night Market online now! Safety measures including reduced capacity, face masks, and timed-entry will still be enforced.
The restrictions of the pandemic also inspired Shalma to pursue a new business venture, Radial Park at Hallet’s Point in Queens. Created by Shalma and Jeremy Shepard from Stark Production Group, Radial Park offers visitors a “Cinemersive experience” featuring an interactive, theatrical playground. Re-opening May 28th, Radial Park will hosts a line-up of movie screenings and live performances on its stage and 60-foot screen all summer long. New this year is a beer garden featuring more than thirty local brews and eclectic food trucks. Shalma says there is a little bit of everything at Radial Park. The success of the Bronx Night Market and Radial Park is a testament to the resiliency of New York City’s innovative small businesses and the supportive local communities who rallied together to get through the pandemic.
Inside NYC’s Foodie Scene
Learn more about the Bronx Night Market, Radial Park, and the NYC food scene in our upcoming virtual talk with Bronx Night Market co-founder Marco Shalma on March 23rd! Tickets to this talk are just $10. You can gain access to unlimited free virtual events per month and unlock a video archive of 100+ past events as an Untapped New York Insider starting at $10/month. Already an Insider? Register here! Can’t make it live? Register for this virtual talk and we’ll email you a recording of it after it ends!
Next, check out 1o Delicious Vendors from the Bronx Night Market