Farmers markets keep our community close even when staying six feet apart
From Jen Saffron, owner of Sprezzatura.
It was scary to me to start a business. I had a family to support.
I read in NEXTPittsburgh about a class New Sun Rising (NSR) was offering for anyone interested in starting a food-related business. I applied, was accepted, and spent one year learning how to run a business. After that year, NSR approached me to be a tenant in their building. Then, in 2016, I incorporated Sprezzatura. I had spent 2 years building up clients. During 2019, we built out our kitchen for catering and the cafe. We officially opened the cafe on November 30, 2019.
We are a woman-run business and some of us are single moms, too. People are excited about our food. What we cook is unique to our Italian heritage. You can’t buy it at a supermarket.
It was shocking when we had to close the cafe last year at the beginning of COVID, especially financially our catering contracts and events dried up. All of my employees are part-time and some have health issues that made me really concerned about exposure to COVID. Their 1099 status made navigating unemployment and the PPP loan very challenging. Even through this difficulty, Sprezzatura has not seen a lot of turn-over because we have tried our best to take care of one another.
We aren’t people that come from legacy money, we’re fierce workers. We understand how our decisions affect our lives. I knew we could manage, we just had to figure out how. Fantastic community partners offered us contracts to cook for the underprivileged. We received a small grant and a small loan. The market and our takeout program are just a couple of the ways we pivoted to make sure we could stay above water.
My friend Darla told me to join the market, she said it is “the best.” And now, I see why. People who come to the market are looking for ways to create community and talk to the people who produce the food they’re buying.
The market has helped us develop an understanding of our business model and how we can better our products. It helps us understand what works and what doesn’t work. The market has offered us the opportunity to have person-to-person relationships, which is crucial to our brand. What we sell are relationships. The market gives you that direct relationship.
The only issue we’ve had at the market is not being able to hug our customers. That’s what we do, we hug. Customers bring us wine, tell us about their families, tell us about upcoming surgeries, you name it. We’re family.
The market has allowed us to have cash flow and a predictive business model. It’s allowed us to become much more refined and efficient as a business. It just helps us think through everything.
The Bloomfield Saturday Market empowers small businesses like us.
– Jen Saffron
P.S. Markets are a way for us to stay fed and connected. Donate to Bloomfield Development Corporation to support vendors like me.