With two hours to spare in Union Station Friday evening, Elinor Slomba had a mission, and it wasn’t to catch an earlier Metro-North or book an Amtrak for her Festivus travels.
She needed to find a sparkly headband she could wear for her holiday festivities. Dressed down enough for jeans and sneakers in a pinch, merry and bright enough to dazzle under the right tree or cluster of mistletoe.
At the west end of the station, options abounded. Hats by Natalie’s stand held glittering, wide-brimmed red and gold headpieces. Kim’s Closet had a jewelry rack of bottle-cap earrings, shimmering bracelets, and dangling necklaces. V’s Accessories advertised that “true girlfriends are like great pieces of jewelry—bright, beautiful, and always in style!” And there was a hodge-podge of embellishments from Abstract Koncepts. In the end, Slomba gravitated toward Kim Ciarleglio, her eye caught on a gold-studded band that matched her scarf. Above her head, as if celebrating her victory on cue, members of The Yale Citations broke into song (in top video).
It’s a portrait of what Union Station could be every Christmas, with a little magic from a few organizations. That’s because Slomba, who leads New Haven’s Project Storefronts initiative, was there as the organizer of this year’s Holiday Mart and Street Fair, open to visitors on the three Fridays leading up to Christmas (Dec. 5th, 12th, and 19th) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (The Mart was also open the 4th.) This year marks the first time that the Holiday Mart, which features a rotating cast of small businesses and local entrepreneurs, has been held in the station.
“We decided this year to keep it simple, and find a place where people were already gathering, and bring the vendors into that space. We thought for the Holiday Mart we would do multiple Fridays ... I’m hoping to raise New Haven’s profile as a place where people are making valuable things for the marketplace, and to get a pipeline of cool products ... that people can expect to find something authentically New Haven when they come to the train station,” she said at the event.
Friday night’s iteration featured businesses from around Greater New Haven that are all hoping to gain exposure and make a few extra holiday sales. While they noted that Friday’s business had been slow––due partly, they guessed, to the driving rain outside and protests downtown––they all had some advice for already-downtrodden holiday shoppers: buy local if you can.
“My process is about discovery and identity, creating a new language that goes back to African sculpture through painting. ... I feel like my prints are very accessible, they’re priced right, they’d make great Christmas gifts or holiday gifts.” said New Haven artist Gordon Skinner.
For others the fair was about sharing the holiday spirit with local entrepreneurs.
“I was wearing hats to church ... I thought if I liked the hats, maybe there were other women who would like the hats. My whole line is meant to be inspirational. This is an exciting chance to reach out and let others know about the business,” said Natalie Oliver of Hats by Natalie.
“Project Storefront to me is about small businesses, and this is my trying-to-be-business…. I like it because they keep it local,” added Ciarleglio, who sells handmade recycled and crystal jewelry and hair accessories.
She shared some advice as she wrapped Slomba’s new headband in a cheetah-print paper bag. “Definitely shop local. It helps you find something unique, one of a kind.”