Farm-fresh foods, handmade crafts to be featured at downtown Dover store
Justin and Tara Brant are assembling a stable of vendors for an indoor farmers market in downtown Dover.
They plan to open Black Swamp Artisanal Market in April in a 1,200-square-foot store at 204 W. Loockerman St., leading a team of more than 30 vendors offering farm-fresh meats, eggs, vegetables, flowers, honey, ice cream and baked goods along with handcrafted soaps, lotions, jewelry and furniture.
“Our goal is to highlight local crafters and producers,” Justin Brant said.
The market is named after their farm in Felton, and they named their farm after the road it’s on.
The Brants started raising pigs and chickens two years ago, and they joined the Delaware Farm Bureau. Tara Brant is a registered nurse, retired from the Army, while Justin Brant serves in the Navy but looks to farm full-time soon.
Last year they started selling their pork and eggs at markets, including the Capital City Farmers Market in Dover.
“Tara and I always thought about opening our own store, but we didn’t have the time and worried that we wouldn’t have enough besides pork and eggs,” Justin Brant said.
Then they were contacted by Diane Laird and other representatives from the Downtown Dover Partnership and Unlock the Block.
“They said, ‘We’ve got this idea for this space in Dover that’s vacant, and looking at your website and what you do, we think you’d be a good fit,’” Justin Brant said. “They definitely put the seed in our mind. Tara and I have watered it and grown it, but they’ve really been helping us out.”
The artisanal market concept was developed through Unlock the Block, a program with the goal of reducing vacancies by supporting entrepreneurs in the downtown business district, said Laird, the DDP executive director and co-chair of Unlock the Block.
“Small-business owners are the foundation of every successful downtown community,” Laird said. “Even amidst a world pandemic, Justin and Tara have been carefully planning and strategizing – discussing architecturals, finalizing contracts, working with vendors, selecting displays – all to ensure a high quality, successful venture next to the Bayard Pharmacy.”
A team that comprises Unlock the Block, including Cindy Small, business adviser for the Small Business Development Center, is providing assistance to the couple.
“Small businesses are the cornerstone of Delaware’s economy and this marketplace creates the opportunity not only for Black Swamp Farmstead, but for several other small businesses that will make up this cooperative,” Small said. “It’s a win-win-win situation for the businesses, residents and Dover.”
Will Grimes, Neighborhood Revitalization coordinator and NCALL/Restoring Central Dover representative, said the market is filling a need.
“We know the community will be so enthused about the variety of goods they’ll be offering right here in the downtown,” he said.
“Artisanal” means made in a traditional or non-mechanized way, not from a factory.
“The products are grown or raised locally – homemade, handcrafted,” Justin Brant said. “The vendors are sourcing the items for their products as sustainably as they can. These are people making their own cheese, butter, bread, cakes and canning their own jelly.”
The Brants have received verbal commitments from about 35 vendors.
“This team approach will allow us to bring high-quality products all under one roof, and weather will certainly not affect operations as it sometimes does with the outdoor farmers markets,” Justin Brant said.
The market will have the look of one store, but each vendor will label their product with their company logo and information.
The Brants, members of the Farmers-Veterans Coalition, will display the products on custom wood furniture made by Fortitude Furnishings, owned by a U.S. Marine Corps veteran in Georgetown, and that furniture will also be for sale.
Workshops and demonstrations
Tara Brant said she and several vendors will offer workshops and demonstrations at the market, so customers can learn how to make some of the products themselves.
“I make soaps and lotions from natural ingredients and will be pleased to share that process in the store,” she said.
Other ideas include workshops on making wreaths, candles or floral arrangements.
Jocelyn Bottomley of Fat Cat Farms will offer how-to programs in addition to selling her sourdough English muffins and seasonal heirloom vegetables and flowers at the market.
“We plan on providing workshops and demos on ‘farmsteading’ with topics including food preservation, bread baking and seed starting,” she said.