Returning for the third year, Holiday Mart JC is ready to bring its extensive list of vendors and shoppers to a new location.
Set for Nov. 7, this annual shopping event began in 2017 when Rachel Hays, Bethany Walsh and Becca Varner formed the Simply Inspired Initiative and created the community-based holiday shopping event while giving back to the Jefferson City community. The one-day market showcases small and local businesses and creates a festive shopping destination downtown for workers, residents and visitors.
"It all began over cheesy mac and cheese, and chocolate chip cookies at Panera in January 2017," Hays said in an email. "As entrepreneurs with our own businesses, we discussed ways we could help bring people together, raise awareness and support our JCMO community by giving back in a way that could help local nonprofit organizations during the winter season. Since we all three share the love for shopping it seemed unanimous."
Hays said the event quickly became a hit and "everyone wanted to be a part of it," noting they have since established an eight-page waiting list for vendor opportunities.
"We were extremely blown away with how much support we received after the first year in 2017," Hays said, noting more than 1,400 people turned out to shop in the frigid weather, with a line to get in that wrapped around The Millbottom, the venue that first year, for two hours.
More than 40 vendors are expected to participate in this year's event, which will take place at the Capital Bluffs Event Center. The event had previously been held at The Millbottom, but Hays said it had outgrown that space. She said the group initially planned to hold the event at the Special Olympics Training for Life campus but the EF-3 tornado that hit Jefferson City in May caused structural damage to the site.
"We never thought after just two years we would have to move to a larger venue but here we are," Hays said. "Capital Bluffs Event Center became the perfect solution after the storm."
Hays said the group handpicks the vendors who will participate, which is one of the things that makes the Holiday Mart so unique.
"We've created specific vendor category guidelines and try to check off every gift that might be on your Christmas list — whether you are shopping for your friends and family, your furry friends, your co-worker or even yourself," Hays said. "Since the event has grown this year, we are especially excited because we have quite a few vendors traveling from more than two hours away to participate."
As part of the mission to give back to the community, two local nonprofit organizations are chosen each year, and 100 percent of admission and prize giveaway proceeds go to benefiting those two organizations. In its first two years, the Holiday Mart has donated more than $14,000 to The Special Learning Center, I-Serve Global, Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association and Cody's Gift.
This year, proceeds will benefit HALO, which fights child homelessness, and the Samaritan Center, which provides food and services for low-income families.
"Giving back is our mission and is very important to us since we don't keep a dime from this event," Hays said. "We always remind ourselves about this important life lesson: 'No matter how tough you think your life is there's always someone who has to face challenges that are even tougher than yours. And it goes in many different directions.' Our biggest reward is the realization that we've made a significant change in someone's life each year."
This year's event is set for 4:30-8 p.m. Nov. 7, with the VIP shopping, which is already sold out, from 3-4 p.m. General admission is $5 and tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at holidaymartjc.com.
"Our VIP tickets usually sell out within a week of posting," Hays said. "We are just extremely thankful for every attendee, event sponsor, participating vendor and event volunteer who has supported our event since the very beginning."