Oscar Gomez works as a seafood salesman and restaurant server to support his family — and to cover losses incurred when his business burned down in the September fire that gutted the Boise International Market.
The fire was a devastating blow for the market’s 16 small-business owners, which included refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as others who were working second jobs to support their entrepreneurial ambitions. Earlier this month, Boise police said investigators believe that the fire was intentionally set, and they asked for the public’s help to find the perpetrator.
Gomez, a 32-year-old father of two, did not expect to be able to reopen Botanica San Mateo. He didn’t have the money to restock the shelves with their variety of Mexican products: prayer candles, toys, jewelry, pottery and wall decorations.
“I’m trying to keep up with all the bills from the last shop,” Gomez said.
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But family members stepped in to help him start over. Two uncles who run similar shops in California provided him with merchandise to fill his new store at 1148 N. Orchard St., next to the Golden Star Restaurant.
The shop opened in December. Gomez said the price was right for the space. He’s also getting the word out about his new shop by selling his wares on Saturdays at the Global Community Market at Trailhead, 500 S. 8th St. in Downtown Boise.
“People are finding me,” he said.
Just four months after the fire, the vendors from the Boise International Market have shown great resiliency — most are back in business in some form or fashion, thanks to the help of family, friends and community donations. And they’re not soured on the idea of being part of another international market in Boise.
I’m never going to give up.
Oscar Gomez, former vendor at Boise International Market
MAKING NEW MARKETPLACES
The Global Community Market started off as a holiday market. It drew enough foot traffic for participating vendors that it’s continuing, albeit with new hours. The temporary market runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at Trailhead.
More than 1,000 people visited the holiday market’s eight vendors during the four weekends before Christmas, generating $6,200 in sales. The global market had good synergy with the nearby indoor Boise Farmers Market and Capital City Market, said Gina Bessire, a project manager for business startup training and assistance at the nonprofit Jannus.
Jannus organized the temporary market and is now working to find it a permanent site. Beth Geagan, economic opportunity director and chief strategy officer, said they’re looking for a building that offers 25,000 to 40,000 square feet of retail space.
The group wants to expand the number of vendors to at least 20 or 30. Staff for the market would include a social enterprise manager, business development specialist and some part-timers to help out where needed.
The timeline for opening the new, permanent market is up in the air but this year isn’t out of the question.
“We are moving as fast as we can. The commercial market and availability is our only barrier to moving sooner,” Geagan said.
One former business that plans a home both at the permanent market and elsewhere in Boise is The Goodness Land.
Salam Bunyan’s insurance covered less than half of what he estimated was a $38,000 loss in the fire. With money from the insurance and catering, he’s buying new equipment. He has a new location for his restaurant at 6555 W. Overland Road, Suite 110 (near Anytime Fitness), and he expects to open in mid-February.
JoyfulTea has reopened at 6711 N. Glenwood St., No. 101, in Garden City. It’s in a space formerly occupied by a coffee shop, behind the Sonic and Panda Express.
Terry Hathaway, who owns the tea shop with his wife, Karen, said the community has helped them replace the dozens of teapots and teacups lost in the fire. Donations are still coming in, creating an eclectic collection.
Every week we get a new piece. Customers love it.
Terry Hathaway, owner of JoyfulTea, on community’s donation of china
The tea is sold for $5 a pot. Customers get to choose their tea, teapot and cup. The shop, which has tables and comfy chairs, offers 155 different teas from China, India, Japan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Nepal.
Hathaway, who began drinking tea in 1980, became so fascinated by it that he’s studied it ever since. He drinks six to seven pots of tea a day.
“I get passionate about the things I’m involved in,” said Hathaway, a 67-year-old who previously worked in sales for Home Depot for 18 years.
One wall of his shop boasts framed certificates from the Specialty Tea Institute. He’s a certified tea specialist — and if you tell him you’re not a tea drinker, he’ll take it as a personal challenge to find something you’ll like.
The tea shop is doing very good business; two part-time employees work alongside the Hathaways. The shop has a meeting room that’s frequently reserved by customers, and they’re planning to put in a patio.
Terry Hathaway said they loved being part of the Boise International Market, and they’ll consider having a second location at the permanent market once it’s open.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Here’s a list of all the vendors, their new locations (for those that have them) and whether they’re participating in the temporary Global Community Market and/or the planned permanent market. The temporary market runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at Trailhead, 500 S 8th St. in Downtown Boise.
▪ Andy’s Shaved Ice & Ice Cream. You can get shaved ice and ice cream at Andy’s Mexican Food, 3118 N. Middleton Road No. 1 in Nampa. Not currently participating in the weekend market, but buying new equipment and plans to be part of permanent market.
▪ Botanica San Mateo (Mexican goods). Reopened at 1148 N. Orchard St. in Boise, next to Golden Star Restaurant. Participating in weekend market and plans to be at permanent market.
▪ C3 Hair & Beauty. Hasn’t been participating in weekend market and no confirmed plans to be part of permanent market.
▪ El Cafetal. Will participate in weekend market starting in late January. Will be a part of permanent market.
▪ Ghorka Store (Bhutanese and Nepali grocery). Will not reopen that business but now participating in the weekend market as a different venture, Darjeeling Momo, offering prepared Nepalese food. Will be at permanent market.
▪ International Grocery Market. Opening soon at 10390 W. Fairview Ave. in Boise, possibly by early February. Not participating in weekend market and won’t be part of permanent market.
▪ JBR’s Barbecue. Mobile only. Selling on weekends at Andy’s Mexican Restaurant in Nampa. Not participating in permanent market.
▪ JoyfulTea. New spot: 6711 N. Glenwood St., No. 101 in Garden City (behind Sonic and Panda Express). Not participating in weekend market. May have a second location at permanent market.
▪ Kahve Coffee. Participating in the weekend market and will be at the permanent market.
▪ Kibrom’s Restaurant. Opening soon at 3506 W. State St. in Boise, possibly by end of January. Participating in the weekend market. Would like to have a second location at permanent market.
▪ Loba African Fashion & Fresh Produce. Participating in weekend market and will be part of permanent market.
▪ Nubian & Sudanese Market. Participating in weekend market and plan to be part of permanent market.
▪ StarBelly School of Dance. Now at 208 E. 37th St., Suite 11 in Garden City. Will be involved in new permanent market, offering classes or shows.
▪ Thara Fashion. Participating in the weekend market and will be at the permanent market.
▪ The Goodness Land. Opening as soon as mid-February at 6555 Overland Road, Suite 110 in Boise. Participating in the weekend market, planning a second location at the permanent market.
▪ Umoja Na Uhuru (Somali grocery). Not participating in weekend market but planning to sell at permanent market. Will sell produce at Capital City Public Market in April.
What will become of the former Boise International Market building? Owners of burned businesses find themselves in a difficult limbo.