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Mistletoe Marketplace: A classic that changes with the times

By JACK WEATHERLY

Many, if not most of the members of the Junior League of Jackson were not born in 1980, the first year of the Mistletoe Marketplace.

And the annual event that signals the start of the Christmas shopping season for many people has grown over the years.

The League, which was established in 1941 and has taken some shots to its image – primarily the fictional portrayal in the 2011 made-in Mississippi movie ‘The Help,” which was set in the ‘60s.

And the League has changed as it has grown. It emphasized diversity in its membership, said Allison Muirhead, chairwoman of this year’s event.

Starting with 30 merchants, the Marketplace now averages about 150, according to Muirhead.

The event, which was from Nov. 8-11 this year at the Mississippi Trade Mart, may seem all girlie and glittery, but it is run as a tight ship, Muirhead said.

It is competitive, which means that just because you are in as a vendor one year doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a return ticket.

And if you don’t show up when the event opens you get a warning. “If it happens again, you’re not asked back,” said Muirhead, who punctuates her conversation with good-natured laughter.

Return invitations are one thing, but a first-time appearance is no cinch either.

Julia Tatum said her Oxford company, DeltaGrind – whose plant in Water Valley produces of stone-ground grits and other corn products – was turned down last year. No explanation.

 

Photos courtesy of Allison Muirhead / Special to the MBJ

 

And they hope to return next year, she said, though she’s not quite sure what the criteria are.

Muirhead said that there is a lengthy explanation of the League’s criteria, including limiting the vendors to no more than 20 percent owned by League members, no more than 25 percent from the three-county Jackson metro area, conflicts of interest are avoided, quality of presentation and others.

Already, Tatum said, has gotten business from the Marketplace.

“I got two more retailers and possibly a third one,” she said Tuesday.

It’s fun and festive, but there is a serious bottom line. The League donated $1 million last year to the Batson Children’s Hospital, primarily from the Marketplace, though the League has other fund-raisers, Jumble, a giant garage sale, in February and Touch a Truck at the end of March, for kids and guys who like big machines.

The Marketplace has a significant economic impact on the Jackson area. A 2014 study by the University of Southern Mississippi states that the impact amounted to $6 million.

There is money to be made.

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