Downtown Auburn Cooperative launches Hot Summer Nights Market

Inaugural event runs 3 to 8 p.m. July 8 at City Hall Plaza on West Main Street.

This week, the Downtown Auburn Cooperative launches a big to-do it hopes will bring people into the downtown core every summer for years to come.

That is, a maker’s market, where vendors will sell only items people make themselves or use their hands to make, such as knitting and crocheting, jewelry, wooden signs and more.

The first Auburn Hot Summer Nights Market runs from 3 to 8 p.m. July 8 at City Hall Plaza on West Main Street. It will be there again on Aug. 12 and Sept. 16 at the same time.

“We won’t have any of the Tupperware people, any of that kind of stuff, so everything will be homemade,” said Cheryl Rakes, executive director of the Downtown Auburn Cooperative. “It will start out as a smaller market, but we hope it gains momentum and carries on as a tradition.

“Maybe next year we can close down the street,” Rakes added, “but this year, we just can’t have a huge event. We have to work within the constraints of what we can and can’t do right now.”

The DAC is a 501(c) non-profit organization. Its mission is “to promote, improve, and historically preserve downtown as the heart and soul of the community, creating opportunities to discover and explore the many wonderful shops, restaurants and services downtown Auburn has to offer.”

Not only is it a resource for local businesses in the Business Improvement Area, but it also hosts events throughout the year that benefit the DAC and help it fund future programs and projects in the downtown.

Rakes said the DAC has wanted to “do something downtown” for years, but given the pandemic, the loss of the Heritage building to fire in 2017 and ongoing construction of its replacement, and the loss of the Max House Apartments across Main Street to fire last summer, the non-profit organization’s options were limited.

Although the DAC’s ability to hold events was constrained, between early 2020 and this past spring, it still staged some highly-successful drive-through events at Christmas 2020 and again the following Easter. Rakes said the organization used the pandemic bummer to build relations and trust with business owners in the downtown.

“It’s really gaining momentum,” Rakes said of the organization. “For the first time, I have a full board of 14 people. And we just rejoined the national Mainstreet America program, and it will give us a lot of great ideas for stuff we can do,” Rakes said.

“With the devastating fires and COVID and construction, it’s not all going to happen overnight, but I do have a firm belief that it’s going to happen,” Rakes said.