As I looked for a place to park around 1:30 Sunday afternoon near The Chattanoogan, where the Chocolate Fling was set to take place, I couldn't find a spot. I was early for the fling, so the streets weren't full of cars for that yet. The crowd, and the reason for my circling the block several times, was a couple of blocks away at Chattanooga Market at First Tennessee Pavilion.
Executive Director Chris Thomas wrote in his weekly report to vendors that 12,987 people attended opening day of the market. Thomas says he has a formula for calculating attendance that he's tested a couple of times and got a surprisingly accurate number.
In any case, there were a lot of people there, and it doesn't really matter whether it was actually 12,987 or 12,988. Whatever the number, those folks spent almost $137,000 with the 231 vendors reporting in. The average sale was just under $600 with the average sales per patron coming in around $11.
Here are some more numbers: 40 vendors had more than $1,000 in sales; the top farm sold $3,503; the top food truck sold $2,087; and the top artisan sold $1,560.
What's interesting is that not only are the attendance numbers up, but so are the sales numbers. By comparison, opening day in 2011 had 143 vendors, with about $70,000 in sales and $500 per vendor.
What's really important is that these number represent vendor sales, meaning this is income for mostly new businesses. The market itself makes a small percentage of the sale. Each vendor gets the lion's share.
Also notable is that Thomas believes it has gotten too crowded, and he is correct.
Because of that, opening day next year likely will become opening weekend.
Speaking of the Chocolate Fling, the event raises money for the Epilepsy Foundation. I've been lucky enough to be a judge for several years now, and this was by far the best, and toughest, competition tffffo date. In the past, some of the samples have been good but not extraordinary.
This year, their were more extraordinary entries than just good ones.
The Judges' Pick winner was Sweet & Sassy. The Cupcake Kitchen took the Best Presentation honor, and the Chocolate Box won the People's Choice award. An honorable mention went to 2 Sweet 4 Your Taste and their dipped strawberries.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...