The flow of foot traffic at the Charleston City Market paused Friday morning for an award ceremony, recognizing vendors who sell locally based products.
Mayor Joseph Riley awarded 69 artisans and 47 sweetgrass basket weavers with a special ceramic tile featuring the City Market seal to display that certifies that their products are locally made.
“I want you all to know how proud I am of you and your hard work and your contribution to this city,” said Riley. He said that such a vibrant market area contributed to Charleston being named the No. 1 tourist destination in the country.
Recipients of the award crowded around a tent where the mayor was speaking, but eventually made their way to shaded areas to avoid the muggy morning air. They wore name tags identifying themselves before accepting their tiles and leaving to set up their individual stands for the day's customers.
Leola Wright has been weaving sweetgrass baskets for 52 years. She was taught the art by her mother who used the baskets as a means to support her nine children. Wright said she has taught all six of her kids how to weave the baskets to preserve the generational history of the art.
“It's great to see how the city cares about the art and the people who do it,” said Wright, proudly showing off the tile she had been given minutes before.
Michelle Black has been working at the Market for the past nine years selling fused glass jewelry and acid etched artwork on copper. She said the awards were a sign that the city appreciates the vendors' hard work.
“It means a lot because making something from scratch is really tough,” she said.
Black said that renovations at the market made it easier to work and helped attract more people, saying it doesn't flood as often since they raised the floor.
Mary Lou Ranson sells glassware decorated with vibrant, hand-painted designs at the Market. She said she likes to add a little pizzazz to things people need and was overwhelmed by the city's recognition of her work.
“It means the world to me,” said Ranson, who's been at the Market since 1984. “It's fabulous they recognize the work we put in.”
Ase and Stu Zablow have been selling their Southern Sisters cookies at the Market since 1987. Ase describes Stu as a “naturalist,” an inspiration for their ingredients.
“Our recipe is based on an old, antebellum recipe,” said Stu, explaining why their cookies contain no artificial preservatives.
Farther down the aisles was Charlie Shelton, working in place of his wife, Susan, at Susan's Pressed Flowers. The couple met at the Market while Susan was working there with her mom. “I came along shortly thereafter,” Charlie said, lightheartedly. Now the couple has been working at the Market for 30 years.
As far as what it felt like to have his and his wife's work recognized by the city, Charlie said one word summed it up — “validation.”
The awards went a long way in promoting locally produced goods, something Michelle Black thinks will help boost the profile of the Charleston area.
“We're all in this together,” she said. “We need to support local suppliers as much as possible.”
The ceramic tiles, featuring the City Market seal, that were handed out Friday to vendors using local products.×
(Left to right) Stu Zablow, Elaine Warner, and Stu's wife Ase, of Southern Sisters. They've been selling all natural cookies made from an Antebellum recipe at the City Market since 1987.×
Leola Wright has been weaving sweetgrass baskets for 52 years. Her mother taught Leola and her eight siblings the art, and she has since passed it down to her six children.×
Charlie Shelton at the stand of Susan's Pressed Flowers. He met his wife Susan at the City Market and the two have been selling their products there for 30 years.×