Military-turned-farmer couple help veterans and other entrepreneurs sell their produce

DOVER, Del. (AP) – Justin and Tara Brant hosted the grand opening of Black Swamp Craft Market September 24 in downtown Dover, in a 1,200 square foot store that has been vacant for several years.

Tara, a registered nurse, is an Army veteran, while Justin serves in the Navy, but plans to cultivate full time soon.

The farmers themselves, the Brants lead a team of over 25 vendors offering farm-fresh meats, eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers, honey and baked goods as well as soaps, lotions, oils, jewelry and handcrafted furniture. . Local artwork and photographs are also for sale.

“The response has been wonderful,” Tara said. “We have received excellent feedback and a lot of positive comments. It was awesome.

The Brants, members of the Farmer-Veterans Coalition, feature products on custom wood furniture made by Fortitude Furnishings, owned by a United States Marine Corps veteran in Georgetown, and that furniture is also for sale.

Amy Spampinato from Dover, who was shopping with her family on Thursday, said the market “makes my life easier”.

“I always thought something like this would be a good idea with all the farmers in the area. I used to drive everywhere to buy from the different farms, but now everything is organized in one place, ”she said.

She also loves the look of the store.

“The ambiance and the decor matter. It’s a great place to shop, ”Spampinato said.

Hours are Thursday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours Friday until 8 p.m.

The story behind “Black Swamp”.

The market is named after the Brants’ farm where they raise pigs and chickens near Felton, and they named their farm after the road it is on.

Last year they started selling their pork and eggs in markets including the Capital City Farmers Market in Dover. They thought about opening their own store, but didn’t think they would have the time and wondered if they would be able to offer anything other than pork and eggs.

Representatives of the Downtown Dover Partnership and Unlock the Block, a program to reduce the number of vacancies in the downtown business district by helping entrepreneurs, then asked them if they would open a store for multiple vendors.

“The community has been tremendously supportive of us at farmers’ markets,” Tara said. “They are very familiar with sustainable agriculture. When we were approached to start a craft market, we had no problem getting on board and received a lot of support from other traders.

“Handicraft” means made in a traditional or non-mechanized way, and not from a factory. The products are locally grown or raised – homemade, handcrafted. Vendors source items for their products in the most sustainable way possible.

Diane Laird, executive director of the Downtown Dover Partnership and co-chair of Unlock the Block, said the groups asked the Brants to open a store because they were “stable and successful vendors” on the Capital City Farmers Market.

“We have been working with them for over a year, from concept development and store design, to negotiating a business lease and coaching on the commercialization of this exciting business concept,” said Laird. “We also anticipate that through this type of incubation, sales could help individual vendors launch their own stores.”

A team including Cindy Small, Business Advisor for the Small Business Development Center, provides assistance with support from NCALL / Restoring Central Dover, Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, City of Dover, Delaware Division of Small Business, from True Access Capital and the Small Business Development Center.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of Delaware’s economy and this market creates an opportunity not only for Black Swamp Farmstead, but also for several other small businesses that will make up this co-op,” Small said in a press release. “It’s a win-win situation for businesses, residents and Dover.”

Tara said the process started by talking to people at farmers’ markets and collecting business cards.

“We sent emails to keep them updated on the progress. Then people started approaching us, asking if they could sell their items, and it went from there, ”she said.

The marketplace looks like a single store – not individual stalls – but each vendor labels products with the vendor’s logo and company information.

“The biggest challenge was the construction – the renovation of the store,” Tara said. “It took a long time because of the covid restrictions.”

Laird said the opening of the market was positive for the city center, especially after the nearby Bayard Pharmacy closed earlier this month.

“We are very saddened to lose the Bayard Pharmacy on the block, and we are focused on prospecting for a category of business to complement the craft market,” Laird said.

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