Weekends in NOTO now include Saturday Markets

The first Friday Artwalks are drawing more and more people to NOTO (North Topeka Arts District). Now there’s more, with antiques and collectibles found at the heart.

Beginning in April the NOTO Saturday Market in Historic North Topeka debuted in the open space to the east of the NOTO Arts District. The market is scheduled every Saturday, not merely the first weekend of the month.

“With a focus on the arts, antiques, fine crafts, quality vintage items and local produce, our goal is to have an area of heritage food booths which reflect the various cultures of the community,” said John Hunter, co-chairman of NOTO. “We hope to provide a rich cultural experience enhanced by music and entertainment.”

Adding to the resurgence, several Topeka area antique and collectible dealers are getting in on the action, either with booths at the Saturday market or at the Two Days Antiques Market in the NOTO district. Several independent antique dealers are already ensconced in storefronts along North Kansas Avenue.

Nine dealers have contracted for space at Two Days, where co-owner Lisa Cusick reports that approximately 1,000 people came through the shop on the first Friday in April. For two years she has operated Brickhouse Antiques on SW Burlingame Road with her longtime business partner Coralee Evans. They will be moving permanently to NOTO in the near future, in part because of the increased customer traffic generated by the First Friday Artwalks.

“Customers are lined up outside on the first Friday of the month,” Cusick said. “It’s a wonderful scene with lots of people milling about on the street, street vendors and musicians. There’s going to be a bakery going in next door in the near future.”

At Two Days the dealers’ areas are crafted to portray an actual room settings. “Today people tend to buy more utilitarian items, things they can use. So we try to set things up with ideas of how to create a style in your own home,” Cusick said. “And the inventory moves so quickly that we are always creating different looks with fresh items.”

One neighbor of Two Days is Serendipity, an event space that opened six months ago. It offers live music and a full meal deal on First Fridays. It is available for catered events at other times.

Another antique store operating in NOTO since last October is Rusty Haggles Antiques and Artists Lofts, owned by Jean and Hal Gardner. Hal previously served as producer of the national PBS program, “America Loves Antiques and Collectibles.” In addition to offering a large shop of antiques and collectibles on the ground floor, seven professional artists rent studio space upstairs. Their works are displayed on the downstairs walls.

“We’ve been in the antique business for 20 years and we truly do love what’s happening in NOTO, especially on First Fridays,” Hal Gardner said.

Brian Adams, a regular vendor at the Saturday market, has a small display of his products at Rusty Haggles – vintage soda pop – sold under the sign of Soda Works.

The bottles and the labels look old, but the contents are all recently bottled. So he urges a bottle of Moxie, a New England brand, on a customer. It’s not a cola or a root beer. It’s in a category all it’s own – Moxie. Adams sells other classic soda brands: Bubble Up, Double Cola and other labels never heard of in these parts. “Sales of the big national brands of soda are down, but at the same time, the small, local, vintage, more boutique brands have seen a resurgence,” Adams said. “I think we’re hitting a vintage soda renaissance right now.”

Sherry Glenn, manager of the NOTO Saturday Market, is optimistic about its prospects. “We opened on April 7 and we had a huge turnout,” she reports. The Saturday markets will be operating every week through Nov. 3, not merely on the first weekends of the month. Glenn says that it is taking some time to get the word out to Topekans that the open-air market is operating every week

Participating NOTO merchants and organizations

NOTO Community ArtsCenter
922 N. Kansas Ave.

The Eclective
900 N. Kansas Ave.

Two Days Market
824 N. Kansas Ave.

Studio 831
831 N. Kansas Ave.

Art Lofts & Rusty Haggles Antiques
826 N Kansas Ave.

Southwest Traders
830 N. Kansas Ave.

Foole’s Dream Studio
833 ½ N. Kansas Ave.

Kaw River Mercantile
833 N. Kansas Ave.

Second Chance Antiques and Collectibles
840 N. Kansas Ave.

Foole’s Dream Studio
833 ½ N. Kansas Ave.

Kaw River Mercantile
833 N. Kansas Ave.

Robuck Jewelers
845 N. Kansas Ave.

Serendipity
822 N. Kansas Ave.

Contact Leigh Elmore at editor@discoverypub.com

Arts drive North Topeka resurgence

On the first Friday of every month something remarkable happens in the historic “original downtown” of Topeka, KS – it teems with people stepping out on the town, enjoying each other and art. With the skyline of modern Topeka looming to the south across the Kansas River, the classic Midwestern row of brick and stone buildings dating from the 19th – and early 20th centuries comes alive again on North Kansas Avenue after decades of recovery.

And in an urban revival formula that is playing out in cities throughout the Midwest, the arts prove to be the foundation for breathing new life into old buildings and once-tired sections of town.

On May 4, NOTO (North Topeka Arts District) was hopping with hundreds of Topekans enjoying the beautiful weather and original art displayed in several venues indoors and out. NOTO was created three years ago with the expressed purpose of revitalizing a part of town that never fully recovered from disastrous floods in the 1950s. More than 5,000 area residents lent their voices to a strategic planning process called Heartland Visioning, now in its third year.

“One of the highest priorities in the plan has been the creation of a downtown arts district. Communities across the country have successfully developed inner-city areas into thriving arts districts, and we now see that happening in Topeka,” said John Hunter, Washburn University theater professor and co-chairman of NOTO. “The synergy of the arts districts will revitalize the area and create many economic development opportunities.

“The NOTO name was selected from the first two letters of North Topeka, revealing not only its location, but designating its unique identity,” Hunter said.

Heartland Visioning is marketing NOTO business district studio and retail spaces at affordable prices as part of the redevelopment project. Near the Kansas River, this area is at the north end of the city’s main downtown corridor and boasts a number of original buildings from Topeka’s earliest days.

“Although in need of some TLC, these buildings have charm, style and ‘good bones’ and are available at below-market rental rates,” Hunter said.

The NOTO district is contained within a three-block area that has been recently updated with new streetlights and planters. Nearby are the beautifully restored Great Overland Station Museum, a planned riverfront park, and older homes that showcase various architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Folk Victorian and Gothic Revival.

The activity in NOTO recently attracted the attention and the presence of Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, who toured the area in March with Hunter and other NOTO officials. He was impressed with the energy of the volunteer group driving the NOTO resurgence.

Landesman said the project is unique in that it truly is a grassroots movement. He said most arts projects begin at the top with a foundation or government agency. In North Topeka, the project has grown quickly from the bottom and without government funding.

That, Landesman told the Topeka Capital-Journal, is what will make it sustainable and an excellent model for other communities. He also said the people who are making the dream a reality are invested in the project to a high level because it is their community at stake.

“The big news for me, of course, is that the arts are central to the revitalization of the neighborhood,” Landesman said.

And that, of course, is big news for Topeka.