THE TERM “BUSINESS INCUBATOR,” for most of us, conjures images of quirky urban spaces where casually-dressed young techies huddle over smart devices and foot-tall cups of Starbucks coffee. But the 30 or so vendors at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market contend that they, too, share an incubation space with a vibe all its own: their weekly market at Court and High Streets. Their stalls are, after all, the ultimate “temp space;” their revenue provides investment for their businesses’ growth, and their customers’ testimonials provide the most credible brand of advertising out there.

“I STARTED MY BUSINESS OUT OF MY HOME over 5 years ago as a hobby, but it never took off until I started exhibiting regularly at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market,” says Ellen McClintock. Her Military Motifs business now sells pillows, throws, tote bags – even pet clothing – in local and North Carolina stores, veterinarians’ offices, and online.

“THE FLOWER LADY WOULD NOT EXIST without the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market,” says owner Robin Lindsey, who sells a wide range of flowers, balms, lotions and soaps. A brick and mortar location was not an option for her fledgling business, but the market provided “a much less daunting platform for small businesses to sell from without the hassle of leases, loans, etc.” Moreover, “I’ve done it without social media or advertising outside of what Terry and Paul

[Danaher] post on the website. Word of mouth in Portsmouth is the best advertising anyone could ask for!” And business growth? “The market went from sort of a hobby to a serious business. I have just leased three acres to keep up with flower demand just from Portsmouth.”

FAYE BAILEY BEGAN her baked goods business by offering just a few seasonal fruitcakes. Her offerings now include scones, cornbread, biscotti, granola and pies, and her fruitcake orders grow more each holiday season. Over the years, “the competition has increased but so did my relationship with my customer base. It continues to grow and I am grateful for all that the Market has done to make our respective work the success that it is.”

ARTISANS Bakery and Café and MANNINO’S Italian Bistro both have physical presences in Olde Towne, but participate regularly in the Market. “We want to show people what we have to offer just a couple of blocks up the street, “says House Manager Shaun Gavin. Likewise, when street and water pipe construction blocked easy access to their café, Artisans was happy to show their array of baked goods every week to remind customers that they were “still in the game.”

ALL OF OUR VENDORS value the interaction and synergy that their participation in the market brings, and will tell you that the incubation that has taken place involves not just sales, but relationships and ideas, as well. The variety of items provided by our woodworkers, crafters, vegetable growers, meat and seafood purveyors, bakers and others draws a good crowd every Saturday that benefits all of the vendors, the customers and the city.

THE PORTSMOUTH PARTNERSHIP FOUNDED THE FARMERS’ MARKET in 2009 under its PortsEvents affiliate. Originally a monthly market on Middle Street, it became bi-weekly, then weekly with a move to its current Court and High Street location. The Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center’s historic courtyard, also at Court and High, has hosted the Portsmouth Partnership’s First Friday “Concert in the Courtyard” series since 2011, drawing thousands of people to Olde Towne and providing over $35,000 in grant revenue from beverage sales to the Portsmouth Museums Foundation. Exhibition openings at PACC are tied to the First Friday calendar, leveraging the appeal to a wide a range of visitors’ interests.