That’s the vision that came to the mind of Mike Field, the founder of Jaxsons Night Market, an event held on the third Thursday of every month featuring local farmers, artisan food producers, food trucks, a craft beer garden and fashion trucks hosted downtown in Hemming Park.

Since its inception back in April 2014, Jaxsons Night Market has become the most exciting monthly event held downtown since Art Walk, which started over a decade ago. The organizers behind Jaxsons Night Market, sought to create a signature recurring event downtown that complements Downtown Vision’s monthly Art Walk.

“Art Walk consistently generates evening foot traffic into the doors of merchants downtown. Many of those same merchants have championed expanding Art Walk into a bi-monthly occurrence,” Field explained. “The night market was able to fill that need for a second programmed event that generates foot traffic downtown. But instead of replicating Art Walk, we’ve created our own niche by showcasing local artisanal food producers.”

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The “Night Market” concept has been a home-run hit, as over 50,000 people have attended the market since it debuted in 2014 at One Spark.

“We give people a great reason to come downtown, grab a meal, do some grocery shopping and enjoy a local craft beer after work, while also providing a casual atmosphere to socialize with friends and listen to live music. People are drawn to urban environments that are filled with “third places,” or the places where you spend time away from home or work. These can be anything, such as coffee shops, bars and restaurants where you can network with friends and meet interesting new people,” Field said.

Another great aspect about Jaxsons Night Market has been its ability to also double as a platform for locally-owned, small businesses who may be looking to expand.

“We curate the market with locally owned small businesses that have both distinctive products and the capacity to expand their operations. By getting their products in front of a large targeted audience, we are helping them to test the viability of future business expansion in the urban core of our city,” Field said. “The typical Jaxsons Night Market customer is college educated, between the ages of 24 and 42 and lives in neighborhoods near downtown like Riverside, San Marco and Springfield. They have disposable income and spend a large portion of their monthly expenditures on food away from home. These are the very consumers who are critical to a small business’ success. To be able to connect with them and earn their loyalty early on is essential in the evaluation of whether your business plan is sound, and taking on the costs of expansion is worth the risk.”

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Vendors all across Jacksonville, such as Hoby’s Honey and General Store, Southern Roots, FreshJax, Vagabond Coffee and Super Food and Brew have all opened brick-and-mortar locations since participating in the market, and several other market vendors are looking to do exactly that.

As for what the future holds for Jaxsons Night Market?

Big things. “Now, even larger businesses like Black Sheep Restaurant and The French Pantry are getting involved to test out new concepts for future expansion plans,” Field said.

By: Grant Gunderson | Contributor