As she strolled around the Augusta Market at the River for the very first time, Dorene Shaia stopped to browse Kinsasha Williams’ Avon booth.
Shaia had become disenchanted with her former representative and needed a new one.
She might have found what she was looking for in Williams.
On July 28, as Shaia browsed the samples on Williams’ table, live jazz from the Reynolds Street end of the Augusta Market lightly filled the air near the fountain area, where Williams was set up.
The smell of festival food, including fried chicken strips and sausage dogs hung much heavier, though it was only about 10 a.m.
The market, at Augusta Riverwalk and 15 Eighth St., is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays until Oct. 27. For details, visit www.theaugustamarket.com.
“That food’s making me hungry,” Shaia said.
After hearing Williams’ specials – buy one get one free and some items half off, today only – Shaia left with a catalog and a promise to call with an order.
And that is what Williams hoped for when she signed up for a booth at the market. Williams started her Avon business two months ago and saw the Augusta Market as a way to gain new customers.
“There’s a lot of different people coming from everywhere,” she said.
As a direct salesperson, she has not yet found many places that will allow her set up a booth. July 28 was her second Saturday at the market.
“So far, everything’s fine,” she said. “I’ve gotten some new customers and orders and everything. I’m happy.”
Across the way, Bill Mersen stood near his own booth, which displayed a couple of types of potatoes and at least three different kinds of tomatoes.
Merson, who owns Pick-It Fresh Farms near Johnston, S.C., said the Augusta Market is the only market where he regularly sets up a stand.
The farm is new – he cleared it, raked it and tilled it himself, and it has been operational for two years. This is his second season at the market, and by 10:30 a.m., he had sold most of his produce, some of which he picked at 4:30 a.m. the same day.
“You’ve got great loyal customers that come week after week, and they enjoy the stuff,” he said.
The fresh produce is one of the market’s biggest draws. Several vendors offer crops such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, watermelons and pole beans.
Saundra Walker said she sometimes drives from Martinez just to look at the produce. She once worked at Suntrust Bank and was familiar with downtown offerings like the market, but said she thinks many people still either don’t know about it, or haven’t bothered to check it out yet.
“And then you hear people say, ‘where can I buy fresh produce?’ ” she said. “(The market’s) advertised on TV all the time.”
The market offers much more than fresh produce and direct sales products. Vendors offer everything from original artwork and handmade baskets to floral arrangements and locally roasted coffee – by the pound or by the cup.
Andrew Casella said there isn’t anything like the Augusta Market in his hometown of Dalton, Ga.
He and his wife, Ashley, moved to Augusta four years ago when the Army transferred him to Fort Gordon.
July 28 was the family’s first visit to the market.
“(Ashley) has friends that come down here,” Andrew Casella said. “She just wanted to come down here and see what it’s all about.”
They found handmade soap for their 15-month-old son, Hayden, at the Luna
Luna Bugs is owned by Leslie Carson, who has been setting up at the Augusta Market for four years.
Like Merson, she sees plenty of repeat customers, but said she enjoys not only the customers, but the other vendors, too.
“Vendors are kind of like a community in themselves,” she said.