Elkton is a small town with big plans this season as it holds its first Elkton Downtown Marketplace.
Sweet and spicy aromas of cinnamon rolls and eggnog will garnish the crisp winter air this weekend and the following as Spotswood Avenue’s vacant storefronts transform into a holiday marketplace.
During the season of giving, opting to shop small is a gift unto the community as sales funnel back into the local market and profits go directly to neighboring families. Some artisans and craftmakers are vendors at festivals and markets as a hobby and a way to explore artistic endeavors — but for one Elkton family, selling treats at farmers markets was a means to make a dream come true.
When Monica Heffner and her family began planning to add another child to their family through adoption, she turned to the world of crafts and homemade goodies to raise funds to bring her daughter home from Ethiopia. What began as fiddling with fudge and sweets eventually turned into a passion that she continues to share across the region. Now, Heffner sells gourmet cotton candy through her family’s business, Posh Fairy Floss.
“We started years ago when we were adopting my youngest daughter. We started selling items at the farmers market as a way to fundraise for our adoption, and we kept going because we really enjoyed it,” Heffner said.
Posh Fairy Floss’ original, handmade sugar floss recipe has been used to create over 40 flavors since the business launched in February. With experience selling from Roanoke to Reston, Heffner said she enjoys Elkton markets because the business receives just as much support in Elkton as in bigger cities.
“We’re in Elkton, and we want to be a part of our local community. We love the idea of ‘buy local, shop local,’ so the fact we can be here and support our local community and have them support us is great,” Heffner said.
At Elkton Downtown Marketplace, Posh Fairy Floss is offering seasonal flavors, such as candy cane, eggnog, cinnamon roll and apple pie, as well as the bestsellers: birthday cake, pina colada and blue raspberry. Love eggnog but the thought of its flossy brethren leave you scratching your head? The stand offers free samples of all flavors.
The town is able to host the event due to a grant from Staunton Creative Community Fund. Mayor Josh Gooden said the original grant was for $3,000, which Elkton used to fill its downtown with entrepreneurs at the marketplace, but the grant has since doubled. As a result, construction of a pavilion on the empty lot beside town hall may soon be underway.
By filling the empty buildings on Spotswood Avenue with products from local vendors, Gooden said he hopes it will attract businesses to establish a brick-and-mortar location downtown.
“It’s a good way to test the waters a little easier than maybe Autumn Days, where it’s just for that weekend. Now it’s spread out over four days. Hopefully, it will allow them to build relationships with community members,” Gooden said. “Our thought so far was if we gain one storefront downtown out of this event, it’s a win. If not, we’ve got one event each year that helps draw people to our downtown.”
By DinK Design is a trio of women crafters who sell handmade candles, treats and decor. Harrisonburg resident Amy Hodge founded the project last year in memory of her grandfather, who called her by the pet name Dinky since she was a toddling tot. For the three artisans, these weekend markets offer the chance to dabble with the possibility of operating separately.
Hodge’s one-woman project did not take long to grow after she met Diane Whitmore, the wife of her husband’s best friend. Whitmore specializes in hand-designed home decor crafts, and her mother-in-law, Mary Whitmore, is an artisan in the kitchen. Together, the three women often spend evenings at the Whitmore house in Stuarts Draft whipping up creations.
“It’s just kind of a family thing. It’s the three of us getting together and doing things we love. Mary has a love for cooking and loves cooking and decorating, and Diane, her items are all hand-painted and handmade, so then of course I create my custom fragrances, so it just comes from the three of us bonding together,” Hodge said.
Mary Whitmore’s caramels, brittles and cookies will be for sale alongside scented soy and beeswax candles from Hodge. Fans of snickerdoodle, peppermint bark and coconut can splurge on the taste and smell at the By DinK Design table.
Elkton Downtown Marketplace goes from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday and Dec. 13 and runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the next two Saturdays. Included lots are 157, 187, 196 and 110 W. Spotswood Ave. Dec. 13 will also feature live music every half hour from 5:30 to 8 p.m and Christmas greenery for sale at 305 Old Spotswood Trail.
“One of the biggest things for us is drawing awareness of existing businesses in downtown and showcasing them,” Gooden said.
Elkton Area Community Center is also hosting a Christmas Bazaar from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday as the Christmas parade rolls across Spotswood and Stuart avenues at 11 a.m.
Shopping is not the only activity taking over Elkton this season. On Thursday, visitors can rock around the Christmas tree for its illumination at 6:30 p.m. on the front lawn of the Jennings House on West Rockingham Street. On Dec. 13, downtown will transform into an old town Christmas with carriage rides. Elkton Progressive Improvement Committee is leading a tour of decorated homes from 3 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, which includes a commemorative ornament with a painting of The Gables Hotel by Jeddie Hensley.
Hodge grew up in Coxs Mills, W.Va., so she said she is familiar with the difficulties of evolving a small town into a tourist attraction, but she is excited to be a part of the change in Elkton.
“It was definitely an opportunity I wanted to get behind because — coming from a small area in West Virginia myself — there’s not a lot of small business,” Hodge said. “It’s an opportunity to boost Elkton’s downtown.”