The downtown pop-up series gains momentum and sets sights on bigger events
By Brooke Spach | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Max Rivera is all about supporting local. He says he personally enjoys being a part of the fabric of a community, and he took that passion to the next level at the height of the pandemic when he set out to uplift and highlight small businesses in the area with a pop-up market in Raleigh in November 2020. It was the first of what would become many monthly markets of The Makrs Society, which today hosts pop-ups in Durham, Carrboro, Raleigh and Charlotte. You can visit the Durham markets March through November at Golden Belt and at Durham Central Park every first Saturday and every fourth Sunday of each month, respectively.
As one of the founders of Triangle Pop-Up who then branched out on his own, Max understands that popup markets have become somewhat ubiquitous. In order to set The Makrs Society apart, he and his five staff members create different themes for each month’s market – June was Minority Business Month, and September’s Pup-Up Markets featured booths from multiple adoption agencies and pet-oriented businesses. “We came together and brainstormed, put all of our ideas out there and picked the ones we thought the community would be interested in,” Max says.
The locations of Durham’s two markets are intentional, too, to ensure that vendors are easily accessible to the community. “A lot of the population in Durham is downtown,” Max says. “Durham Central Park is just a great area for walking foot traffic [and is] right next to the Durham Food Hall. Golden Belt, too, is just a really cool area. I feel like that’s an up-and coming area, kind of similar to the [American] Tobacco Campus, but on a smaller scale. We checked out the location and thought it would be a great fit.” DCP played host to its first Makrs Society market in March 2021, and the team expanded to Golden Belt earlier this year.
The monthly pop-ups draw between 500 and 2,000 attendees, with the largest crowds visiting Durham Central Park and Raleigh’s North Hills. Close to 200 Durham-based vendors regularly rotate among the markets, and each month’s event typically features about 50 vendor booths at Durham Central Park and 20 to 30 at Golden Belt. Vendors are subject to a rigorous application process to ensure the markets showcase high-quality products and customer service. Max says The Makrs Society has received more than 700 vendor applications this year.
“We’re looking for businesses that are really trying to expand and grow,” he says, adding that the team pays attention to how the vendors present themselves both online and in person at their booths. “It’s very important for community engagement.”
Although Makrs Society got its start at the height of the pandemic, Max says that the nature of pop-up markets – outdoors, on a small scale and with the ability to space vendors apart – allowed them to continue facilitating relationships among customers and small businesses in an especially challenging time. Now that more people are comfortable gathering in larger crowds, the goal is to shift The Makrs Society into primarily a large event planning company.
“We’ve pivoted and transitioned,” Max says. “We’re still running our monthly markets, but we’re also getting into larger festivals and ticketed events.” Its Bull City Boos Fest at Durham Central Park on Oct. 22, for instance, will feature 40-plus local artists and vendors, brews from The Glass Jug Beer Lab, Bull City Burger and Brewery, Clouds Brewing, Barrel Culture and Bull City Ciderworks, among others; live music and DJ sets; food trucks; a kids zone; and other fun activities like tarot card readings and a 360-degree photo booth. “We’re expecting anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 people,” during that event, Max says.
“We want to create an all-inclusive, positive space for people to come together,” Max goes on to say. “If you come to our events, you’ll see that there’s just a very diverse group of people.”