Chattanooga Market recovers fast from storm, but vendors lost several thousand dollars in merchandise

Chattanooga Market recovers fast from storm, but vendors lost several thousand dollars in merchandise

May 1st, 2017 by Steve Johnson in Local Regional News

Florence Davis takes a cart of grow-your-own-lettuce on the opening day of the Chattanooga Market at the First Tennessee Pavilion on Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The annual market features local vendors selling art, crafts, produce and artisan goods on Sundays until the fall.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Chattanooga Market

more photos

More rain ahead

Today, wind gusts of up to 25 mph are expected along with showers and thunderstorms until about 11 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. The high should be near 73. It will be mostly clear tonight, with a low around 52 and wind gusts of up to 20 mph.

When Florence Moses got to her booth space outside the Chattanooga Market around 8:45 Sunday morning, her tent was gone and the straw baskets she sells every weekend at the popular downtown craft and food fair were piled in a heap.

"My stuff had blown away, my tent was bent," she said. "This whole row was empty, there were no tents — nothing."

But within a couple of hours, she had a borrowed tent, her baskets — all waterproof — were back in place and she was enjoying the big crowd that packed the market for its opening weekend.

It was the same for most of the dozen or so vendors whose tents were scattered by a swift, strong storm that struck after the market closed Saturday.

The market normally is a one-day affair, so nothing is left overnight, but this opening weekend was a two-day event. Most of the vendors left at least some items behind Saturday night, protected by the lightweight tents typical at craft fairs.

"I was at the house when I got a call about 10 p.m., and got here at 11 p.m.," said Jamie Beavers, who paints and draws with watercolors, acrylics, charcoal and graphite.

"The tents were all crumpled up — everyone here got hit the hardest," he said, gesturing to the rows of tents outside the main pavilion between the parking lot and the building entrance.

"I had 200 pounds of weights on the tent, but it was spun around and moved five or six feet out," Beavers said. His watercolors were ruined, but the charcoal and graphite works, equally vulnerable to rain, were safe. Beavers estimated he lost $500 to $600 in inventory.

Several booths north, wind gusts Sunday afternoon were forcing Betty Stamey to hold on to the top of her daughter's booth, VS Outdoor Snaps, which sells photographs of area scenes.

"I hope I don't become Mary Poppins," Stamey said, remembering the Walt Disney heroine who flew over London holding on to her umbrella.

Her daughter's photos were blown around, but most were recovered. "I took stuff home and cleaned it up," Stamey said.

Potter Laurie Graham's booth was inside the main pavilion and partly protected from the wind by the restrooms, but her largest shelf was toppled, wiping out about a third of her inventory. "What can you do? she said. "We'll just move on."

The market had more vendors than normal, so about a dozen booths were set up outside the north edge of the pavilion, and wind hit that area hard.

"I got a call about 9:30 saying, 'You might want to come down here,'" said Tiana Saul, who makes jewelry. "My tent was destroyed — the frame was pulled out." But Saul had taken her jewelry home, so her losses were limited to her tent.

Across the aisle, market veterans T.R. Reid and Jeanie Holland took the right precautions.

Because this was an overnight market, they brought a sturdier tent and weighed it down. Jeanie's mixed-media work includes ceramics and rug hooking, so she packed it into boxes and stored them under the table to prevent them from getting wet.

A fellow vendor found a piece of their literature that included their phone number and called them Saturday evening at their house on Missionary Ridge.

When they got to the market, they found they had suffered minimal damage, and dozens of vendors were helping each other to recover and sort out their merchandise.

"People were saying, 'I have some extra weights, I have an extra tent,'" Melanie said. "Artists are good that way."

The craft and food market will continue downtown every Sunday until November.

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673,, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, and on Facebook,