From Parking Lot To Marketplace

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If you haven't had a chance to check out the Fine Arts, Farmers and Craft Market in the Bashas' parking lot, the next two Saturdays are your last chance for the current season.

The market, marked by white tents and canopies, is the brainchild of Jay and Kasandra LeBow.

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On a recent sunny Saturday, Darci Bolander left the smog and congestion of the Valley behind and set up her Cookie Lee jewelry stand in the Rim Country.

The LeBows are longtime art gallery owners, art collectors and dealers who recently relocated from the Valley, bringing with them several innovative concepts for integrating the Rim Country's business and art communities. One of them is the Fine Arts, Farmers and Craft Market, tucked neatly between Jiffy Lube and Taco Bell.

"Our vision in coming to Payson was to assist in developing the area as an art and cultural destination," Kasandra said. "History has proven that if an environment is going to grow it's going to grow aesthetically if you first develop your arts.

"Then people come in for the arts and there's a residual money flow throughout the community, and it keeps the dollars in Payson."

The outdoor market, which features a variety of arts and crafts plus a special lower-priced version of Bashas' already-low-priced Farmer's Market, has been operating from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday for about two months. While still small, Jay says that's to be expected.

"We've done these down in the Valley and what happens is you need to build it block by block," he said. "It's word of mouth; it's giving people enough lead time to fit this event into their schedules.

"A lot of the vendors and crafters we know who would love to participate were already committed (to other events) six months to a year in advance, and we started late."

The LeBows plan to close the market for the winter Nov. 19, and then re-open the first Saturday in April.

The vendors, who pay a flat fee of $30 per Saturday, understand it's a building process too.

"It's all very new, and hopefully each time it will get better," Diane Rothwell said. Rothwell is making her second appearance at the market with her collection of jewelry made from semi-precious stones.

Chuck and Robin Gehring are among several vendors who come up from the Valley. They sell colorful spinners and concrete bears, and they've been back four times.

"The bears are quite popular," Chuck said. "We make our own molds and cast them ourselves."

The LeBows pitched the idea to Bashas'.

"We wanted to do the farmers market concept and we saw the (Farmer's Market) sign (in front of Bashas')," Jay said. "We knew we could approach local farmers and such, but we wanted to keep things in the community so we approached Bashas' management and said, ‘What a great way for you to promote (the Farmer's Market) even better. Bring it outside with us. People will come and shop produce and then go into your store.' And Bashas' has got the parking lot space to do it."

Market customers win, because the produce Bashas' sells outside is priced even lower than inside. But so does Bashas' and so do the LeBows.

"They are doing more and more business each weekend," Jay said. "People are coming to know it and look forward to it."

He is especially happy to be associated with this particular chain.

"Bashas' has been wonderful," Jay said. "Eddie Basha is a great promoter of education and the arts, and it's an Arizona company."

The down time between Nov. 19 and April 1 will give the LeBows and vendors alike time to plan the coming season.

"This will give vendors the opportunity to actually block this into their schedule," he said. "We'll be giving out batches of applications to all the current vendors so they can hand them out to different people they know at the different shows."

LeBow also encourages prospective vendors to come by and talk to the current vendors.

"They can talk to vendors to see what's been going on and how they've been doing," he said. "As the promoter, more times than not that potential client is going to think you're telling them what you want them to hear rather than the truth.

"What we always suggest is talk to the people who are exhibiting to see if they're having a good time, ask questions of somebody who would be your neighbor at the event."

For more information, the LeBows can be reached at (928) 474-9819. Applications are also available the next two Saturdays at the market.

The LeBows also sponsor an "arts and business alliance," a series of artist receptions and showings they hold on a monthly basis at local businesses.

"It's a small, monthly reception that allows the business to interact with their clients and their patients on a social basis," Jay said. "It's a lovely, idyllic concept."

The LeBows, who call their company Integrity Arts, believe the key is to make artwork accessible rather than threatening.

"Over the years, galleries have had such an ability to keep people away from enjoying artwork," Jay said. "They have an attitude; they have created such an atmosphere that if you are not an aficionado you are not going to walk into a gallery.

"Here we are (at the LeBows' receptions) having a glass of wine. You come and go as you please."

In the process, art becomes a unifying element in the community.

"We want to show the community how easily art can be a focal point to gather around in a social situation," Jay said. "You see people you don't normally get to talk to in a social situation, and brainstorm with each other about different things."

The LeBows moved to Payson because they believe their vision can be implemented most effectively in a smaller community, in part because the political barriers are less formidable. Before moving here they owned and operated galleries in Santa Fe, Burlington, Vt. and Scottsdale.

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