The Artisans & Chefs Behind the Holiday Market Stands

Robin, the vendor at Dash of Prep. Media provided by author, Cate Hedengren ’24.

Fairy lights and cottage-like storefronts adorn the streets of New York City from 14th to 17th street during the holiday season. The Union Square Holiday Market is the perfect place to enjoy leisurely strolls in search of a delectable cup of hot chocolate. With over 160 vendors covering a mere nine acre radius, passersby are guaranteed to discover the perfect gifts for loved ones while relishing in the holiday spirit. 

However, amidst New York City’s chaotic, fast-paced commotion, we often purchase our holiday goods with little to no insight about the individual people creating each (often hand-made) item. When walking past the small, unique storefronts, an eccentrically decorated shop specifically caught my eye. Inside stood a woman wearing a bright blue dress, a sparkly leather jacket, and a beret topped with a flower which covered just the top of her green highlighted hair. The uniqueness of her outfit perfectly encapsulated the individuality of her store and its mission. Dash of Pep is a brand that carries apparel, accessories, and stationery that promotes mental health, self-expression, and empowerment. Robin, the store owner, explained her admiration towards the business, its motives, and the holiday market in general. 

“When I moved to New York eight years ago and visited the market, I thought to myself: ‘This is the most magical place I’ve ever been.’ And since then, having a booth at the Union Square Holiday Market has literally been the only item on my bucket list,” recalled Robin. “I feel like it has a way more eccentric energy than the Bryant Square market or honestly any other Christmas market I’ve been to. It’s just so cool to see the people of New York interacting with my shop and really feeling the holiday spirit.” 

Another advocate for spreading the holiday cheer was Allen from the Pageant Print Shop. He has been working at the shop for three years now, and in an interview with the Gazette, he expressed his thorough enjoyment for working at the shop. The walls of the shop were bursting with pages highlighting various eclectic antique maps and prints. “I am a relief worker when I’m not sitting here selling prints,” Allen said. “I love to help people, but I also love history, art and geography. I guess you could say I’m just your average New Yorker. In my downtime, I play chess in Washington Square Park, but when I’m here, I get to see people get excited for the holidays and frantically shop for last minute gifts. In general, it is truly a joy to work at the place I do.” 

Employee at Pageant Print Shop. Media provided by author, Cate Hedengren ’24.

After walking in the cold December weather until my nose turned red and hands turned numb, I knew that the only remedy for the cold was a warm cup of hot chocolate. After prowling the multiple hot chocolate shops, I was drawn to the Pie Shop due to the free samples and low prices. John, an employee at the Pie Shop, boasted about how great the hot chocolate was, and, after chugging the free sample in less than 30 seconds, I would say this claim stands true. 

The Pie Shop. Media provided by author, Cate Hedengren ’24.

“The environment here is great,” he asserted. “It’s honestly not too touristy, so there’s this sense of originality and uniqueness getting to work in a place filled with mainly native New Yorkers. I love the place I work. Even though I only started working here about three months ago, I’ve found myself in a great community, and being a part of the market has been so much fun. Oh, also, we have great hot chocolate!”

Many Grace students also expressed their gratitude towards the holiday market. Considering the fact that Union Square is less than a 10 minute walk from the school, the convenient location attracts a lot of students.

 “It’s super fun and festive,” said Bobby D. ‘24. It’s close to school and it’s a good way to get your holiday shopping done with the large amount of shops there.” 

Frankie Y. ‘23 also illustrated her adoration for the market in an interview with the Gazette:“I love the market! It’s the perfect place to buy cute and unique gifts for people and the food is amazing. It’s generally just a great environment and it gets everyone in the holiday spirit.” 

Stands within Union Square Market. Media provided by author, Cate Hedengren ’24.

The final student to advocate for the market was freshman Mikail O. ‘25. He said, “I go to the holiday market pretty much every year. I love the layout of it because there’s a different store everywhere you look. I’m always excited when I see that it’s set up for the season.” 

To gain a greater understanding of the logistics behind the market and the intent behind creating such a festive space, I reached out to one of the representatives of UrbanSpace, the organization that hosts the Union Square Market. In an email interview, Juliana Pesavento delved into the fine details that allow the market to come alive during the holiday season. When inquiring about the application process for being a vendor and what the average income for said individual vendors are, she responded with, “All vendors apply to be part of the holiday market. Applications typically open the summer before the holiday markets take place.” She added that the vendors all operate their own POS (payment) system. Ms. Pesavento explained the intent behind the Holiday Market in great detail: “UrbanSpace’s mission is to support entrepreneurship, creativity, and community, and the Union Square Holiday Market does just that. We’re thrilled to be able to provide the vendors with a space in an iconic New York City location and give them a platform to showcase their talents in a high traffic area. UrbanSpace has been operating the Union Square Holiday Market for decades and looks ahead to a bright, post-pandemic future,” she asserted. 

In general, the Union Square Market seems to stir up excitement for anyone partaking in shopping for holiday gifts and getting festive during the winter season. For vendors, students, and market owners, the start of the market is a time of great enthusiasm and delight in every aspect. Whether you find yourself last minute shopping, or simply strolling through the market for personal joy, the market perfectly encapsulates the high spirits of the holiday season.