Merced County Times Newspaper
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‘Makers Market’ bringing new artist enclave to Main Street

New ceramic center to open downtown


Bella Luna is normally closed on Sunday — the one day of the week when the popular Italian restaurant on Main Street is not bustling with hungry customers, fast-moving servers, and a highly focused kitchen crew.

But last Sunday, Aug. 27, was different. It was even busier than usual. There were people all over the place, inside and out.

And that’s because the restaurant was hosting the Main Street Makers Market — an eclectic collection of local creators selling art, crafts, food, music, plants and floral arrangements, clothing, health and wellness products, literature, and all kinds of other items with unique artistic styles.

“This is about bringing local artists together — the people who create wonderful things with their hands,” said Brie Wolf, the event’s organizer.
Wolf is a longtime friend of Bella Luna owners Giancarlo DiTullio and Anaid Martinez-DiTullio, who brought their hospitality and culinary expertise to Merced two years ago with the acquisition of Bella Luna from its founder Chef Vinnie DeAngelo. Like the DiTullios, Wolf was working in the Bay Area restaurant industry, as well as pursuing her passion for creating and designing original pottery and ceramics. She makes a good living doing commission artwork for restaurants, hotels and events.

However, when Wolf was introduced to Merced and the Main Street scene, she fell in love with the area, and the people, as well as the potential she witnessed in the community’s growing arts movement. Six months ago, Wolf decided to move to town. She is now in the process of opening up a new business — EarthWorks Clay Space at 355 W. Main St., right across from Bella Luna, in the longtime Gottschalks Music retail space. Gottschalks, in turn, is moving down a ways to 234 W. Main Street.

Wolf has great plans to create pottery workshops and art exhibits for artists in her new location, and the Main Street Makers Market idea was born out of that. A longtime Bella Luna server, Kerry Brooke, is also a ceramist, and is getting involved in the project. Meanwhile, the DiTullios were more than happy to offer the Bella Luna location to kickstart the market idea. The first one was held last July with 24 individual vendors. The second one held last Sunday grew in size to about 45 vendors.

Giancarlo DiTullio points out that while pop-up markets in the downtown area have been all the rage as of late, the Makers Market is unique in that it doesn’t charge vendors to participate. He also says the restaurant’s interior offers a break from the sun for shoppers, as well as clean bathrooms. Vendor tents along the sidewalk also add to the charm.

While Bella Luna’s food service is closed during the event, the bar is open for thirsty guests. The restaurant also sells a variety of baked goods on display.

If you missed the Makers Market, no worries. Another one at Bella Luna is tentatively set for Sunday, Oct. 1. Wolf and the DiTullios want to hold the event every six weeks, and they also intend to expand it out into the street. The idea would be to connect Bella Luna with the EarthWorks Clay Space by way of a city authorized street closure on a scheduled Sunday.

Get ready Merced. A true street market experience is growing in downtown Merced, along with a growing art and culture district.

Contact the new EarthWorks Clay Space by email at: [email protected].

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