Iowa City’s Diversity Market returns with more vendors, longer hours

Diversity Market

Saturdays, May 28 - July 30, 1-7 p.m. at Pepperwood Plaza, 1067 Hwy 6

The inaugural Diversity Market in 2021, courtesy of the South District Diversity Market Facebook page.

The Diversity Market is returning to Iowa City’s South District for its second year, with more vendors, more space and longer hours. Over 40 minority-owned and women-owned businesses will bring their wares or food trucks to the market, which kicks off on Saturday.

The Diversity Market is “a pop-up market that elevates BIPOC and women-owned entrepreneurs and artisans.” Last year, the market was held at the Kingdom Center and lasted for five weeks. It proved so popular, the market has moved to a new location to allow it to expand. People will be able to find it every Saturday through July 30, from 1-7 p.m., at Pepperwood Plaza (1067 Highway 6).

“I really think it gives people opportunity to show off what they have, to come engage the community,” Mayor Bruce Teague said about the market when speaking to Little Village earlier this year. “I also think that it brings people into the South District to see that this is a space and a place that has great potential to be even more vibrant than it is now.”

The Diversity Market is hosted by South District Neighborhood Association (SDNA), with Angie Jorden, Marlén Mendoza and Tasha Lard, owner of JD Beauty Supply, taking the lead in organizing it. Lard said that the team learned a lot from last year.

“This year again we do have way more space than we had last year,” she said. “We have space for our nonprofits. We have space for our food trucks. We have space for our actual vendors. We have space for the families and the children. For us that was our main challenge was finding the space.”

The large parking lot at Pepperwood Plaza not only provides more room for vendors, family activities and entertainment, it also provides greater visibility since it’s right on Hwy 6, Lard said. This Saturday, the market will have free face painting and family-friendly games like cornhole, as well as giant versions of Jenga and Connect Four. There will also be an entertainment stage, provided by Iowa City Community Theatre (ICCT).

“Last year was the first year, and we know how that goes. It’s oftentimes a year of learning what worked, what didn’t work,” Teague said. “I think people will get really excited to come this year. I think the opportunities are going to be even more enhanced than last year.”

Daniel Velasquez is a new vendor at the Diversity Market. He will hold the grand opening of his food truck South Side Street Foods, which serves Southwestern food staples.

“A lot of people see Southwest and will see Mexican food, but there’s Indigenous foods as well,” said Velasquez. “For the diversity market, I’m preparing a new product. I’m working on a burger that came out really good yesterday.”

But Velasquez, a member of the Yaqui tribe, is adding a few new elements to the standard burger, including nopales, a type of prickly cactus that grows throughout Mexico and is commonly used in Yaqui cuisine. Velasquez moved to Iowa City in December 2020, and he’s excited to learn more about the community and how he can contribute to it.

“I want to see what the community’s about,” he said. “I want to, you know, make a really good impact of what I can bring to this community using my food truck as a platform.”

Lard hopes to see more new businesses like South Side Street Foods at the market and in Iowa City.

“I’m looking forward to just seeing the business growth,” she said.