You may recognize the name Noelle Lothamer from her popular cooking blog Simmer Down! Or maybe you know her from the Detroit-based Americana rock band Scarlet Oaks, in which she sings and plays guitar and keyboard (and previously drummed). Maybe you've viewed her photography on Flickr. Hell, you might have even bought vintage clothes from her. But now Lothamer is adding a few more titles to her repertoire: small business owner and event organizer.
In July 2010, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed into law a bill freeing Michigan's cottage industry businesses from what she called "unnecessary regulation." This means that small food businesses grossing less than $15,000 annually and produce non-potentially-hazardous foods (think pies, popcorn, bread, jellies) can make and sell their goods to the public without the previous commercial kitchen requirements. Shortly after that, Lothamer — along with fellow foodie-turned-business partner Molly O'Meara — launched Beau Bien Fine Foods. The brand debuted at a Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) fundraiser in early October with a selection of inventive preserves (like Strawberry Black Pepper Jam). They are now expanding to include baked goods and candy.
Following the event, the duo started crunching numbers and realized how slim their profit margins were. "... part of the deal was that we had to give a percentage back to MOCAD," Lothamer says. "We were happy to do that to support them ... [but] it kicked me into gear as far as planning our own event. I really wanted us to have an opportunity to sell our product with little to no overhead, and I figured other small vendors must be in the same boat."
Lothamer began asking around about spaces where they could host this event, and through the serendipity that is the Two Degrees of Detroit, was able to secure the new location opened by the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID). And so on Saturday, 12/10, from 7 p.m. to midnight, the Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar will be held at the Whitdel Arts Center at 1250 Hubbard in Detroit.
The Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar features a variety of vastly different products from an equally diverse group of vendors. Some are already well-established businesses, others — like Beau Bien, local makers of fine preserves — were formed directly as a result of the new laws, and there are even a few for whom this will be their first time selling their products.
Specialty products like chocolate truffles and jams will make excellent holiday gifts for the foodie connoisseur and novice alike, and savory items such as charcuterie meats and salsas make easy gourmet snacks for your holiday parties. The event is free for attendees; vendors are cash-only. Beverages and light appetizers will be available, DJ Michael Geiger will provide music and there will also be prints on display from local photographer Marvin Shaouni.
Participating vendors include Porktown Sausage, McClure's Pickles, Detroit Spice Company, El Azteco and more.
The Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar is designed to help fledgling businesses get their name and products out without paying the sizable fees associated with booths at farmers' markets and other special events. Use of the space was generously donated by Aaron Timlin, president/CEO of the CAID, which made possible Lothamer's vision of connecting independent, small-batch food purveyors to a buying public in an atmosphere that encourages interactivity. Meet the bright, eager and enthusiastic people behind some of the most interesting things happening in Detroit's distinctively DIY dining scene ... and buy some of their stuff, too! | RDW
Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar • 12/10, 7 p.m.-midnight • Whitdel Arts Center • 1250 Hubbard, Detroit • facebook.com/whitdelarts • free admission