How to describe The Clover Market? A scatterbrained flea, it is not. Nor is it a stuffy craft show. But it is kind of the best parts of both: the potential, the innovation, the authenticity. There’s also, though, a sense of purpose that’s lacking among other vehicles of this kind. The stuff that’s sold at the flea and the craft show, you’re forced, too often, to use your imagination to figure out how it would fit in your life. Whereas the stuff at Clover, you want it. You just don’t realize it until you see it. Then, game over.
Janet Long likes to think of The Clover Market as a hundred little pop-up shops in one spot. Long created and established Clover and, to this day, remains its lone gatekeeper. In the six years and 50 or so markets since the first one, Clover’s evolved from an anonymous gathering of 30 art and antique dealers in an Ardmore parking lot to the proving ground for the most promising indie home goods and jewelry design labels in the Mid-Atlantic.
This year, Long will stage 10 markets—five this spring—between Bryn Mawr, Chestnut Hill, and, for the first time, Collingswood, NJ. In all, there will be more than 180 vendors featured—a hundred at each market—about 20 percent of them new to Clover. Though, there will be a lot more left on the outside. Long requires everyone to apply at the start of the spring and the fall seasons, even the longstanding vendors, and she is meticulous in her scrutiny of them. It’s her way of keeping the mix fresh and diverse. Purpose, after all, doesn’t come from someone whittling ornate key fobs.
When she is asked, however, to highlight some of her favorites—akin to making her name a favorite child of hers, I realize—a mock-exasperated Long cites a few that have been with her from the beginning: Reclaimed Crafts, Nannygoat Antiques, Salvation Nation. That loyalty seems to form Clover’s foundation. The vendors discuss Long with absolute gratitude. They also look out for each other and cross-promote, at the market and away from it. Three regulars—Hoof & Antler, freshvintage, and Scout Salvage & Vintage Rescue—recently formed the much-hyped N3rd Collective in Old City.
“I had this conversation with one of the vendors last weekend,” Long says. “We were all sitting there commiserating [in the cold] and talking, and it struck me that they all feel a tremendous sense of community about being a vendor there.
“The dedication to what they’re doing, the quality of what they bring and what they make, if that’s not there, there isn’t a Clover,” she says. “My job is really just to shine a spotlight on all of them and to help make those connections.”
At a given market, Long will rack up some 15 miles of walking (counted by a fitness tracking app on her iPhone), introducing vendors to each other and to potential customers, always with a warm enthusiasm that becomes, inevitably, contagious. Those scenes are how she built Clover so big so fast. They’re also what’s kept her from shopping. Shopping a lot. She still shops, of course. She’s not a robot.
Even if you plan to hit the next one (April 24, in Bryn Mawr) just to see what it’s about, you’re likely to head home with a full backseat. So it’s in your best interest to arrive with a more serious plan of attack. Long’s advice: Start shopping now.
You can also do your own research. Long lists the names of all the vendors that’ll be part of the next market in advance on Clover’s site, along with a map of where they’ll be located. For the most part, these are online labels, so Google them and start to get a feel for what they’re about.
Once there, take a lap around before you hone in on anyone or -thing in particular. Unless, of course, something one-of-a-kind catches your eye, online or during your preliminary scan. This isn’t T.J.Maxx. It won’t be there in an hour. It’s OK to leave Clover without anything in hand. It’s not OK to leave with regrets.