The Old Bus Depot Markets are finally back this weekend after a seemingly endless list of challenges.
The markets have been a Canberra favourite since they started 28 years ago in Kingston, but they’ve been closed since 15 March 2020.
Manager Richard Vagi said it’s been a difficult two years for operators and stallholders – and the thousands of Canberrans who used to visit the markets every Sunday.
“We were affected by smoke from the 2019/2020 Summer bushfires. We then experienced hail damage to our roof, leading straight into the COVID-19 pandemic, then building contamination, followed by the second run of lockdowns and restrictions which delayed opening,” Richard said.
“We are so excited to be back. We’ve really missed welcoming Canberrans to market every Sunday.”
With over 180 stalls, organisers expect 5,000 people to walk through the doors at the Old Bus Depot on Sunday (20 March).
Visitors should expect to see fresh faces, loads of fresh produce and artisan-made goods.
Form an orderly queue for Cannoli Brothers, Unicorn Spirits, Burek Bakery & Deda’s Smokehouse, Carol’s Creations, Cheeky Mutts, 213 Art and get ready for winter with Baa Boots.
Cannoli Brothers owner Andrew Stefanou said he’s been involved in the Old Bus Depot Markets markets since November 2016 and that they were one of the key markets he lost during the pandemic.
“I’m absolutely excited! It’s wonderful to have the markets running again,” Andrew said.
“Now what’s good is we have our Saturday market, we’ve got Haig Park Markets on the northside, and now we’ve got Old Bus Depot Markets on the southside back on Sunday.
“We’ve got a whole range of new flavours of cannoli coming out this weekend as we have a big following, and we’re going to be doing eight flavours this weekend when we but we normally do five.”
Unicorn Spirits local distiller Ben Osborne has been involved in the markets since his company first started five years ago.
“This market was the first place that I started selling my booze,” Ben said.
“It all started with one product, our Unicorn Elixir and with release-after-release, we made new flavours, trialled new batches here at the markets, and they were always a good way for us to meet people from interstate as there were always new fresh faces and it’s always great to see our local friends as well.
“There’s no better market research than actually going out there and tasting products and talking to people face to face, which is what we’ve really been missing so much.”
This weekend he’ll be releasing a Raspberry Unicorn Vodka, inspired by regulars from the markets, as well as introducing gin and tonic and sugar-free passionfruit vodka seltzer cans.
“We’re most looking forward to giving tasters, giving feedback, and chatting to customers because we’ve got all these new products, and we can’t wait to see people’s reactions.”
Old Bus Depot Markets market director Anthony Niravong said the markets are an important outlet for local artists and creatives.
“COVID was hard on some stallholders. We’ve had some move on onto bigger and better things, some stallholders passed away, and we’ve also seen a lot of interest in new stallholders. Hundreds of applications have come through.
“All the stallholders have had the opportunity to reinvent themselves, and they’ve re-strategised and re-energised have got new products they’re ready to show.”
But he noted the markets are more than just an opportunity to sell.
“It’s a community. We’re a family and we’ve been here for over 25 years,” he said.
The Old Bus Depot Markets have revised their opening hours and will welcome visitors between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm every Sunday.