Tammy Fletcher is a woman with a lot of energy and a lot of ideas.
She and her wife, Melody Fletcher, have been running their business, For the Funk of It, on Minnesota Avenue for the past five months, and they have a food truck, Flaming Ladies Barbecue. On the side, they have a commercial cleaning business.
“I love to have lots of irons in the fire,” Fletcher said. “I like having three hours of sleep a night.”
And now she has one more venture to keep her busy. She and Melody are the organizers of the Minnesota Avenue Open Air Market, which will debut this Saturday and continue every Saturday through Aug. 29.
The market, open to artisans, craftspeople and flea market vendors, will be in the parking lot at Minnesota Avenue and South 27th Street, just across Minnesota from For the Funk of It.
Fletcher wants the event to be a complement to the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market, which is held every Saturday on the north side of tracks in the center of downtown Billings and which will run this year from July 18 to Oct. 3.
Since opening For the Funk of It, which mostly sells repurposed furniture and home furnishings, a goal of Fletcher’s has been to help revitalize Minnesota Avenue, a once-bustling strip now slowly making a comeback after years of blight and neglect.
That helps explain why she is making vendor spaces available free of charge this Saturday, and then charging only a flat fee of $25 per space, with no commission, for the rest of the summer.
As she said to a customer in her store Thursday, a woman who was thinking of bringing some antiques down to sell, “I don’t want any of your money. I want to, No. 1, get our street noticed, like Montana Avenue.”
The open-air market will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and vendors can start setting up at 6 a.m. They are asked to bring their own awnings, tables and chairs. This week there is no need to make arrangements ahead of time, Fletcher said, but because she can use only 22 parking spaces in the lot, for future markets she is asking vendors to make a reservation by the Wednesday preceding the sale.
Fletcher can be reached at 406-591-0658. She is using the parking lot owned by Randy Hafer, whose High Plains Architects business sits on the other end of the block occupied by For the Funk of It.
Hafer, who has played a major role in what revitalization has already occurred on Minnesota Avenue, said Fletcher approached him with her idea. He said he has to reserve about half the lot for parking, including the spaces leased by Anytime Fitness, which is just across the tracks on Montana Avenue.
He said Fletcher has agreed to do all the organizing and then clean the lot up afterward. He said he will allow her to use the lot for free this week and they’ll talk about a rental fee depending on how the first market goes.
“We’re just going to try it and see what happens,” he said.
Fletcher said she is also getting help from the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Billings. Pepsi paid for some banners that are advertising the market and next week it will be running some radio and television ads, Fletcher said. It will also be selling Pepsi products during the market every week, and the Flaming Ladies food truck will there as well.
Fletcher said she is as excited about giving artists and craftspeople an opportunity to sell their goods as she is about giving shoppers a new experience. She said artists have few ways to make the money they need to open a shop of their own, to “get known and noticed.”
As for shoppers, she has already seen how much people enjoy browsing at her cozy shop, located in the oldest existing building in Billings. The store is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fletcher always has an assortment of items spilling out the door and lined up on the sidewalk, which helps make the whole shopping experience as funky as advertised.
“I think people are sick of shopping at Wal-Mart,” she said.