Galentine’s Market: Local vendors celebrate non-romantic love

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Many of the vendors in attendance, including Kandice Lee (pictured), had mobile or digital presence, so the market provided opportunity to find new audiences.

Emily Fritz | A&E Editor

Pink balloons and pop music greeted guests as they entered Opya Studios in the Southside Flats on Sunday.

Twelve vendors, featuring a variety of products from handmade soy candles, body butters and wax melts, to lash extensions, botox and flash tattoos, gathered to celebrate what ‘Galentine’s Day’ means to them.

“It’s about community and friendship,” said Cafe Botanica co-owner Anna Heasley. “It’s about loving yourself instead of waiting for someone else to love you; it gives you the opportunity to do that.”

Starting her business in summer 2023 with cousin Rachel Kinross, the duo operates their mobile cafe by-event. Several of the menu items at the Galentine’s Market were inspired by the holiday, including the “Love Potion,” the “Cherry Kiss” mocktail and dulce de leche and coconut cream cold brews.

“Coffee is a way to commune with your friends and people you care about … We decided to go more pink with the desserts we were offering,” added Kinross. “[The menu] was event-specific but they will definitely make a comeback in the cycle of drinks.”

Kandice Lee, creator of KanBe Essentials, began her line of body butters and wax melts in response to her role as a healthcare professional.

“I came up with KanBe Essentials because I felt like I can be anything I want to be. I started with wax melts and then turned it into lotions and body butters. I’m planning on doing hand soaps as well, because I can be anything I want to be” Lee said.

Like many vendors, being able to share her products in a brick and mortar setting has helped Lee expose her brand to new audiences.

Jasano Brooks, owner of Opya Studio, originally wanted to put on the market to bring new customers to pre-existing businesses in Pittsburgh.

In the intersection of each vendor’s typical clientele, he was hoping to give larger exposure to his venue and to the small businesses and boutiques offering their goods and services.

“The goal is to bring a wide variety of events together that will bring a different [slew] of people to the space,” Brooks said. “[But this market] is about love, being around people that make you feel wanted, that make you feel safe and make you feel happy.”

The season of love didn’t resonate unanimously with everyone in attendance. Erin Smrekar, owner of Storehouse Neutral emphasized the importance of quality time and year-round love, especially in the wake of hustle culture.

“Being able to be with your family and actually spend that time together is huge,” she said.

Smrekar was determined to bring the community into her space as well. “[This market] is intimate and more community involved … I can see those people come back to my shop and get to know them.”

Meanwhile, several booths set up in the room showcased products to sample and take home. “Self care” was a strong theme among several businesses, like LashLoft PGH and fillir which specialize in beauty services like lash extensions, spray tanning and botox.

Other vendors leaned into memory building services like Keli Marie Photography, owned and operated by Keli Szalinski.

“Getting hour photos taken is empowering,” Szalinksi said, who boasted a beautiful Valentine’s themed photo opportunity and offered free shoots. “A lot of people come up a little bit more shy and reserved; by the end of the photoshoot they feel overall more confident and empowered about who they are.”

Similarly, Trick or Treat Ink offered a dose of confidence to clients who chose to be tattooed by owner and artist Ashley Minerd. Using a “flash sheet” of predetermined designs, Minerd gave a sneak peak of Valentine’s designs that will be available at her shop during the week of the holiday.

“Self love through tattooing you can appreciate yourself and make your body a sticker sheet,” she said.

The market succeeded in offering unique products and services, promotions and discounts for consumers and quality time for those looking to slow down and enjoy the event with loved ones.

“We’ve had a lot of moms and daughters come in to get something [together],” said Jenni Gerhold, owner of Jenni G Jewelry, which specializes in handmade, curated and permanent jewelry.

“Permanent jewelry builds connections with people…it’s being connected onto you physically but also you’re doing it with your family or friends. It’s something that you’re going to remember that you’re going to have on forever.”