Y’all-Mart: A new alternative flea market in Columbia

Posted Sept. 20, 2021

By  and 
Carolina News & Reporter
University of South Carolina

Editor’s Note: This package includes additional images, which can be found on the  Carolina News & Reporter site

Columbia residents may be familiar with the large Soda City Saturday market, but on Sunday a new “y’allternative” market is making its way to New Brookland Tavern. Y’all-Mart is a combination of artists from different alternative subcultures who find community in the underground Columbia scene.

Caitlyn Viars and Candace Sharpe, the organizers behind Y’all-Mart, wanted to create something different for a crowd that they feel is underrepresented in the Midlands area.

“Y’allternative is being able to be happy and proud to be southern but also dark and weird and twisty,” said Viars.

Jessica Shoemaker of Southern Curiosities will bring her nature inspired preservation art pieces to Y’all-Mart. Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Viars

Sharpe explained that in the past, some vendors felt they needed to travel outside of Columbia to other alternative markets to find their audience.

“There’s not a lot in Columbia for a more alternative crowd, a lot of the markets that I go to aren’t super successful because the people that are shopping are looking for USC art and prints of the Gervais Street bidge,” Sharpe said.  

The pair is proud to be part of the “loving and supportive” alternative scene in Columbia and hope to bring together a larger “y’allternative” community.

“I think people don’t have time to be anything other than their true selves,” Viars said. Self-expression is a key point in the “y’allternative” scene. Some vendors shared that they found the isolation of 2020 made them more open to seeking like-minded communities. Others say they’ve always been part of the alternative scene.

For Jessica Shoemaker, Y’all-Mart is new territory. She will be selling her preserved bug art in person for the first time as Southern Curiosities. Shoemaker, an employee at Harley Haven, wants to make her art her full time job and sees Y’all-Mart as an opportunity to share her passion for nature and art with others who may not see the beauty in oddities yet. 

“I think people, especially after being at home for so long, are trying to find something different,” Shoemaker said.

Another Y’all-Mart vendor, Raine Orris, has been selling her bone jewelry for three years and has “always had a home” in the alternative scene. She uses her art to process and express feelings about death.

Jennifer Mae Hill, another experienced market seller, uses her work to combine her inner child with her adult self through her handmade dolls. For Stacey Black, painting is a positive escape from anxiety. Vulnerability plays a strong role in the way the Y’all-Mart vendors produce and share their art.

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