Vendors at Soda City Market incorporate USC inspired decor at their booths.
Soda City Market draws nearly 7,000 visitors each weekend, and with crowds traveling to Columbia for Saturday’s South Carolina-Kentucky game, vendors at the weekend outdoor market say they are adding merchandise and produce in preparation for bigger gameday crowds.
The last South Carolina home game had an attendance of over 80,000 and filled up hotels across the Midlands.
While the university prepared for the Gamecocks first SEC matchup of the year, both locals and tourists stopped in to the traditional European-inspired street market on Main street in the early morning hours to check out Soda City’s 150 vendors and 12 food trucks present.
“We make it a pre-pregame,” said Heather Curtis, the Soda City public relations director.
Since the market each Saturday isn’t a ticketed event, it’s hard to tell exactly how many more people attend in the fall.
Their strategy is less than scientific. One of the team members goes to the roof of a downtown building and counts how many people cross the block over a certain period of time.
According to Experience Columbia, the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism, 14.7 million tourists visit each year to make tourism a $2.1-billion industry for this region.
The vendors have noticed the increase in foot traffic on game days of customers in football attire, and have adjusted accordingly.
Jamilla Kalmbach, the owner of Avocado Toast SC, says that she increases her supplies by 20-30 percent and hires an extra staff worker in the fall.
“Football season definitely helps us,” Kalmbach said. “The only time when the market dies down earlier is when there’s a noon game.”
Soda City runs every Saturday morning throughout the year, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“A lot of our clients are football fans and lot of our clients are students, and so we like to support them,” Kalmbach said.
Other vendors have adjusted their products slightly to appeal to customers that are from out of town.
Jessica Faulkner is the owner of Petite Fleur, a mobile flower boutique, and agrees that Fall brings in more patrons than any other time of the year.
“We try to add more stuff that people can take with them,” Faulkner said. “Like if you’re from out of town, you don’t necessarily want to take a bouquet of flowers home, but we try to have a lot more wreaths, and decorations and stuff like that, that won’t die in your car.”
Faulkner also considered customers that would be attending football festivities after leaving the market.
“We always try to get Gamecock colors. A lot of people get hostess gifts if they’re going tailgating, so we try to have flowers that are Gamecock colors.”
The Gamecocks have five more home games this season, including Kentucky on Sept. 28, Florida on Oct. 19, Vanderbilt on Nov. 2, App State on Nov. 9 and Clemson on Nov. 30.
Over 150 vendors set up on Main St. each week.
Pico de gallo, organic hard boiled eggs and grilled tomatoes are just a few of the toppings you can add to your breakfast at Avocado Toast SC.
Faulkner’s business sells more items that are easy to be transported in the car for customers from out of town at her mobile flower boutique at the Soda City Market.