When Tempe Farmers Market debuted at the corner of University Drive and Farmer Street in 2009, the view across the street was of an empty dirt lot. Now, Whole Foods and new luxury apartments tower over the one-story building it occupies. But the small market still proudly stands.
More of a convenience store than a traditional farmers market, Tempe Farmers Market sells locally made groceries — bread, tortillas, peanut butter, brownies, kombucha, honey, coffee beans — in addition to farm-fresh produce. You can grab a coffee or a tea or an organic smoothie, and there's a little vegan deli inside.
Lately, though, the business has been expanding in a few directions. Since February, owners Stacey and Daryle Dutton have been hosting local artists and vintage vendors outside their market every Saturday evening. The two started the outdoor market in February after seeing a need for a community gathering place after all the social distancing of the past year. They also wanted to create a spot where artists who suffered financially during the pandemic could start earning money again.
They call it Tempe Farmers Market Saturdays After Dark.
“People are excited and grateful to have something to do that's outside and different,” Stacey says. “There's definitely been a real hunger for people to get out, especially, you know, feeling like you've been inside the whole year.”
The evening market starts after the sun sets on Saturday and closes around 11 p.m. or midnight. You'll typically find eight to 10 vendors hawking their goods — be it vintage furniture, clothing, artwork, or jewelry — under golden string lights that hang over the space. There's music, mingling, kids pitter-pattering in the background. Visitors can snag $3 beers, $7 cocktails, and food while perusing the stands.
Among the artists showing on a recent Saturday was Patricia “Patty” Pino. Originally from Long Beach, California, Pino now lives in Tempe and works in a variety of art mediums. She makes cardboard cutouts and paints on canvas or slabs of drywall. She gravitates toward drawing noses and missing teeth because she likes “people’s imperfections.” (Her art name is “Bananas n Cucumbers.”)
Another vendor, Nicholas Liberatore II, lights up the market with vintage lamps, “swag lights” and other treasures, including art, clothing, chairs, kitchenware, and architectural salvage.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in interior design from Arizona State University, but his passion for selling vintage started with a sticker collection from his childhood, which was largely made up of BMX stickers from his years professionally racing. Once he retired from the industry at 27, he began selling his old sticker collection, BMX parts, and BMX uniforms online. From there he utilized his education to hunt down vintage furniture and pieces with a mid-century modern bent to them.
“If it’s cool and it catches my eye, then I will sell it,” says Liberatore, who has spent the past 12 years finding and selling items online. “I can see a thing a mile away [and know] that it's something that's high design."
Along with Tempe Farmers Market co-owner Daryle Dutton, Liberatore intends to open a vintage storefront just down the street, at 511 W. University Drive. Dutton says the vintage store will provide a gallery space for local artists to sell their work in the area.
Tempe Farmers Market also plans to reopen its speakeasy bar, Stacey says. The Dark Side, as it's known, is located on the east side of the market and has a separate entrance.
Prior to the pandemic, the bar served craft cocktails, beer, and mocktails, and local musicians played on the weekends. There were jazz nights on Fridays, different local bands on Saturdays, and an open mic on Sundays.
The Duttons curbed service during the pandemic, but the plan is to open The Dark Side up again this fall, Stacey says.
Tempe Farmers Market
805 South Farmer Avenue, 480-557-9970
Open daily 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.