By Jennifer L. Warren
MIDDLETOWN – Barbara Martinez describes it as “Sugarloaf inside of one big building.”
She lovingly refers to it as a “Community of Merchants.” Its exact name is Emporium Square Artisan Market, and it’s made the dreams of two people a beautiful, mutually beneficial reality for about the past six weeks. Located at 128 Dolson Avenue in the City of Middletown, the authentic Market is filled at 90 percent capacity with local merchants, selling such products as; coffee, comic books, homemade Italian ice and fudge, artwork, all-natural skin items, and clothing, while offering beauty, eye and other services. 16 local artists also have their art on display at no cost to them and 100 percent profit for their sales. Outdoors, a colorful, catchy mural, titled “20/20 Pandemic,” covers the side of a tractor trailer. Plans are in the making for other local muralists to decorate the other side of the tractor. If this all sounds too good to be true, think again. And if you think dreams can’t come true, simply talk to Barbara Martinez.
An Executive Director for the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, Martinez was furloughed at the onset of the Pandemic. Unable to do what she loved, supporting local businesses as well as artists, she felt completely helpless with so many unable to function. Then something unexpected and magical happened. Martinez was contacted by the owner of The Middletown Flea Market after a merchant who worked there had referred her as a possible person to help him with his struggling business. Orlando Lallave (meaning “The Key in Spanish) was having trouble filling up his shops, and he decided to take that merchant up on her suggestion, giving Martinez a ring.
“It was a meant to be scenario, because when he called I was able to answer right away- not something I can always do, and I was immediately interested in what he told me about the place- and went right over there to see it, falling in love with the building and the whole environment,” recalled Martinez. “For every problem he presented about the place, I had a solution, and it all just felt so right; it was meant to be, and it was a type of feeling as if the universe was just lining up, and I had to take this opportunity to help.”
And assist Martinez did. Teaming up with Owner Lallave, “The Key” to both of their endless business possibility doors opened and continues to flourish each day. With shops filled with a Melting Pot of owners from all over the globe, the Emporium Market offers special, upbeat, creative, down to earth and positive vibes. For Martinez, it literally feels like “home,” a place she could not be more proud of and excited about its future. Meanwhile, through Lallave’s lens, he frequently can be heard saying, “I built the foundation, but Barbara breathed life into the Emporium.”
The journey has not been void of challenges however. Technically, sixty percent of the building is being used due to a critically needed roof repair for the other forty percent. Unfortunately, the landlord is refusing to do the repairs. Despite the roadblock which Martinez and Lallave are determined to fix, both remain optimistic with high aspirations for bringing in still more attractions to the locale. In the meantime, merchants could not be happier with the current status of their special, new business community.
“This is such an innovative idea, and much more up my alley than what I was doing before at the flea market, said David Ruiz of Nerdy Birdie, which specializes in pop culture apparel and collectibles. “The Emporium has helped boost my brand with attracting a higher end clientele; it’s just been so very helpful on my business journey.”
As for Martinez and Lallave’s journeys, the possibilities are endless…and super exciting. Expos, collaborative work spaces and community events are just some of the items on the short and long term goal agendas. Another gallery, housing art in the back of the Emporium, is also in the works. Martinez, who operates her own marketing company (BMG), is diligently plugging away promoting all of the businesses housed at the Emporium. On weekends, when its doors are open to the public, Martinez can be found joyfully welcoming in guests at the front entrance area. For the building’s partner and Chief Marketing Officer, this is more than simply a job, or even a career, it’s a calling, and one she wants to use to positively impact as many lives as possible.
“Ultimately, I want the Emporium to be a destination spot,” said a smiling Martinez. “I want it to be a place where you can go and spend the entire day, shopping, eating, sipping coffee, admiring art or simply relaxing.”