The Wonderz Market will end its season on Saturday, Oct. 28, lining Commercial Street with Bellingham small businesses, artists and tattooists. Established in February 2023, the monthly market uplifts vendors of various specialties, from crochet items to jewelry to thrifted finds.
With over 50 vendors, this is the largest of Wonderz Market’s events. Co-founders Elijah Ryan and Milton Rosario are unsure of when the next one will be, as they are still working to establish a more permanent location.
Ryan said they hope to eventually turn the market into “a household name, something that people know about but stays unique.”
Letizia Bryan, a longtime market vendor and facilitator, attested to Wonderz Market’s distinct booths and vendors. In her 15 years of vending and attending vintage markets, she said she has never seen tattoo artists at a market.
The founders’ choice to stray from the norm lies in the market’s history.
Ryan was born and raised in Bellingham before moving to Connecticut to dance professionally. There, he met his current business — and romantic — partner, Rosario.
In 2021 Ryan returned to Bellingham with Rosario, and in the following year they started Thrifted Wonderz, a traveling thrift market for vintage clothing.
While selling their thrifted finds across the Pacific Northwest, they noticed an oversaturation in clothing-based markets and desired an art-focused space. At the end of 2022, the pair decided to create one of their own with Wonderz Market.
Their vision: a diverse, safe space that uplifts youth and provides sober fun for all ages.
“We really saw a need for a space run by queer brown people, for queer brown people,” Ryan said.
Ryan and Rosario sought to create something broad enough to attract multiple demographics, but specific enough to fill the gaps they noticed in Bellingham’s representation.
Wonderz Market was created with Ryan and Rosario navigating logistics. They reached out to potential vendors, navigated licensing requirements and created marketing materials.
“There’s no guidebook on how to run a market,” Rosario said.
The pair entered into running this market with a year of experience and, as they already helped facilitate one Bellingham event (the Church of Vintage at the Karate Church), they were fortunate enough to have a pre-established following. The first Wonderz Market was a rousing success, Ryan said.
“If the community wasn’t as they are, we would have not been doing it this whole entire year,” Rosario said.
Eight months later, their market has doubled in size.
Andrea Goff owns Wickedy Craft, an upcoming vendor offering crochet and embroidery work at Wonderz Market.
“I love meeting other creative people and sometimes they’re not [vending] at the market, they’re just people in the community,” Goff said.
Bryan appreciates the younger generation that is beginning to appreciate the world of markets and vintage, but has noticed a steady increase in the cost of vending, which makes it less accessible to young people who may not have a steady income.
Rosario and Ryan have found ways to keep vending accessible to all, such as by renting out halves of booths. They said that most of the market’s vendors are young people living in Bellingham.
“I genuinely feel like this market is one of the easiest ways to support your community because every single dollar is directly impacting somebody’s life,” Rosario said.
The market will commence at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Oct. 27. More information about its vendors can be found on its Instagram.
Hailey LeRoy (she/her) is an opinion reporter for The Front this quarter. She is an environmental studies/journalism major in her second year at Western. She spends her free time pondering the validity of modern lawn-care standards and singing in various music groups.
You can reach her at email@example.com.