Neighborhood News

A message from Jen Saffron, owner of Sprezzatura

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.

Donate today to support the Bloomfield Saturday Market.

Jen Saffron

Visit Sprezzatura

P.S. Markets are a way for us to stay fed and connected. Donate to Bloomfield Development Corporation to support vendors like me.

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Neighborhood News

A message from Zouhair Mkais, owner of Hello Hummus

Farmers markets keep our community close even when staying six feet apart

From Zouhair Mkais, owner of Hello Hummus.

I was born in Morocco, but I’ve lived in the United States for 22 years. 

I’ve always cooked for fun and went to school for business. I started making hummus seven years ago with a friend of mine from Morocco. 

I joined the Bloomfield Saturday Market in 2014. Bloomfield is one of my favorite markets; it started small but had a strong, focused vision for growth. When you look at the market today, it’s one of the best markets in the city because it’s managed the right way. That’s important to me since so many of us make a living from it.

When COVID hit, the staff was able to implement safety protocols that made it possible to host a safe market. In order to maintain a good market, you need a good crew. The market is great for so many of us vendors and for the overall neighborhood. As a group, we all work hard to succeed, and I think we’re doing a good job of that. 

All kinds of people really love the market because it’s unique. It’s a place that brings people together “in community,” who want to support fresh and local businesses.

I care a lot about being safe and not judged for who I am, and I never feel judged when I’m there. It’s such a comfortable atmosphere; I love that about the market. That’s how I want to see our country, people from all over enjoying their time and being happy together. 

People in Bloomfield are very real. I have so many friends in the neighborhood – people know my name; they invite me to their homes. Customers brought envelopes of money to me when I was trying to buy my van. 

I love what I do; I love the people I work with; I want to stay small. I get speechless sometimes because I really care about this. When people care for you, and you care for them, and they show up early for you in the morning just to purchase your products – that means everything. Maybe if people come to the Bloomfield Saturday Market, we can change the country… It’s amazing, there’s so much love there. Life isn’t about money, it’s about what you can enjoy every day. Being happy and caring for your people.

I give the Bloomfield Saturday Market five stars! I’ve traveled all over – North America, Europe, and South America – and always visit outdoor markets. Bloomfield is such a beautiful market and ranks up there with my best experiences.

Some people think it’s really easy to manage a market, but I know it’s a full-time job. Without everyone at the market, what would we do on Saturdays? 

Donate today to support the Bloomfield Saturday Market.

Zouhair Mkais

Visit Hello Hummus

P.S. Markets are a way for us to stay fed and connected. Donate to Bloomfield Development Corporation to support vendors like me.

Give Today!

Neighborhood News

A message from Megan Gallagher, owner of farm

Farmers markets keep our community close even when staying six feet apart

From Megan Gallagher, owner of farm – who uses organic growing methods to grow delicious veggies on two acres.

I knew farming was something I enjoyed, but I never thought I’d start my own farm. 

I went to Chatham for my undergraduate degree and took an organic gardening class that was offered. I loved it and switched to an environmental science major, focusing on plant biology and plant physiology. I intended to work in sustainable agriculture doing research after graduating. I figured it’d be beneficial to get real world experience and see the day to day of working on a farm. I worked for a couple of seasons in a full-time position at a farm north of Pittsburgh.

In 2016 I had the opportunity to start my own farm when a friend who was transitioning from operating Butterhill Farm, offered me the use of his tools and equipment and introduced me to some landowners. It was an opportunity too good to pass up and the perfect scenario to try running my own farm.

I first got to know the Bloomfield Saturday Market when I was working with Butterhill farm. So when I started in 2016, it just made sense to sell at Bloomfield. I was used to it, familiar with the customers, and just enjoyed the overall vibe of the market. I didn’t want to get in over my head, so I decided I would only sell at Bloomfield and do some wholesale to restaurants.I was starting by myself, and while I definitely had some help, most of the day to day is and was just me.

The market has been a wonderful place to grow my business. The customers are loyal and supportive. Getting to connect with people over the things I grow has been really special. I love introducing people to a new veggies or being part of someone reconnecting with a food from their past. Over the years, I’ve gotten to see families grow and people’s lives change. It’s cool that a place of business can also be a place where people can connect in meaningful ways.

Overall, having the market staff and management is so beneficial to everyone involved. I appreciate all of the time and effort put into the market, it’s helped me get to where I am today.

Donate today to support the Bloomfield Saturday Market.

– Megan Gallagher

Visit farm

P.S. Markets are a way for us to stay fed and connected. Donate to Bloomfield Development Corporation to support vendors like me.

Give Today!

Neighborhood News

Bloomfield Saturday Market Programs

The gray, dreary days spent inside staring at cars go by may feel endless, but they will end. In just a couple of months, the Bloomfield Saturday Market will be back in full swing. 

This past year has been challenging. It feels like a cloud has been hanging over our heads the past year, especially if you’re a small business owner. It’s been hard to watch many of our beloved businesses close and see them bounce back and forth between pandemic-related guidelines they’re expected to follow with little support from the federal government.

Farmers markets have generally been seen in the past as community spaces and a place to shop local. However, this past year opened our eyes to the fact that farmers markets are often very white spaces, and the Bloomfield Saturday Market was no exception. Farmers markets are an essential business that benefit communities by providing access to fresh food, supporting small businesses and farmers, and, in Pittsburgh, supporting SNAP users with a 40% match on their shopping budget. However, these spaces often exclude BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) people, both as shoppers and business owners.

One way we’re working to create a more inclusive and comfortable market is offering two scholarships specifically to BIPOC-owned businesses who are new to the Bloomfield Saturday Market. Offered every season going forward, the scholarship program had a successful trial run at the current winter market. But simply adding BIPOC vendors doesn’t mean that a space is comfortable or even safe. Our staff and board are currently working through anti-racism and inclusion training, and we spend time at the beginning of each market training vendors on what behavior isn’t acceptable and how to handle it. We also spend time at our vendor meetings, held bi-monthly, discussing actions we can take to create a welcoming, safe space.

If you are, or know, a BIPOC-owned business who hasn’t tried a farmers market because the fees were too high or you aren’t sure if it will work for your business model, or are in another market and want to expand, we encourage you to drop us a line with questions and to apply. In 2020 the market drew an average of 1,500 people each week and vendor sales were similar to, or even higher than, their sales in 2019. Our staff have spent years learning best practices around maximizing sales with simple stall layouts and signage and we’ll help however we can. We want to support your business.

Additionally, brick and mortar businesses have also been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. If you own a business in Bloomfield, you can vend at the Bloomfield Saturday Market up to 3 times this year free of charge. The market brings lots of folks from Bloomfield out of their houses and onto our streets, increasing foot traffic in the main area of the Liberty Avenue business district, but also draws a large amount of shoppers from other neighborhoods and even outside of the city. Several Bloomfield businesses have joined us using this program over the last few years and several have become permanent vendors and many have given us feedback that some people who shop at the market do later visit their store to shop. Market shoppers are dedicated and want to support your small business.
Our application window will close on March 19. If you have any questions, please contact our Market Manager, Abi Gildea, at or 412.681.8800 ext. 103. If you’re ready to apply today, applications are open.

Neighborhood News

Interview with Joddo, of Bitter Ends

See how Joddo of Bitter Ends took advantage of the Bloomfield Saturday Market:

When we had to close Bitter Ends Luncheonette in March, we were surprised but rather optimistic thinking maybe the shutdown would last a month or two and we’d be back at it. Then I was hit with a reality check, realizing it was going to be much longer than that, and realizing what I had growing in the field or in my cooler was going to rot because this pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon. 

I took it day by day. I didn’t drastically change anything at first, just made minor adjustments. I then realized that I needed to figure out where my income was going to come from. May-June was full of waste and realizing that I had to sit down and figure what to do in order to survive. June-July was when I began developing a new business plan.

That has looked like home deliveries, the storefront offering pre ordering and take out, and selling my produce at the Bloomfield Saturday Market. 

The market has been my most reliable source of income, and is fun and interesting. Any time I’m there, shoppers are really excited to see what I have to offer. I also think people are interested in seeing the association of what I offer with the menu at the restaurant on Liberty Avenue. Each week that I come back sales get a little better because more and more people remember to buy from me.

The market is high traffic, which is what we’ve been missing on Liberty Avenue during the pandemic. It’s been a really great experience. Shoppers at the market are interested in supporting local, whether you’re a farm or other business – they want to support you. The Bloomfield Saturday Market is unlike any other market in the city, by far the best. It attracts a unique type of shopper and is culturally different from many other markets.

I’d encourage other local businesses to join in on the market. It helps build a larger and new customer base. Shoppers can actually see you, and it really shows you in a different light. It associates your business with a person, which helps humanize your business with a large group of people who are looking for that type of connection.