Weaverville – Originally from Colombia, Marta Santamaria has been an Buncombe County entrepreneur for thirty years. The businesswoman was co-owner of The Bier Garden and Super Sandwich (of downtown Asheville) before transitioning to other ventures. In recent years, Santamaria has begun a wedding catering company and owns several event venues in Buncombe County.
“I have been in the food industry and the hospitality industry for the great majority of my life. All the cooking has been self-taught. I really ended up having a passion for cooking.”
The wedding caterer’s latest enterprise marries her love of food and her entrepreneurial spirit.
In July, Santamaria purchased the Northland Shopping Center on Garrison Branch Road in Weaverville. The strip holds American Home Bank, Animal House Pet Spa, Century21, and Day to Daily Coffee. Two units are available for rent; Santamaria hopes a spa fills a vacant spot.
Santamaria’s purchase of the Northland Shopping Center is a full-circle experience for the businesswoman. The location is “dear to her heart” because her kids grew up in a Weaverville neighborhood behind the shopping center.
“It was always my dream to own someday some kind of little strip mall, but I never in my dreams thought that I would end up buying the mall that I drove by every single day for twenty years.”
Every Saturday from March to September, the shopping center’s parking lot transforms into an outdoor farmer and vendor’s market. Marta’s Gourmet Market: The Market for Foodies began in July with six vendors and hopes to expand to forty by the next season. Santamaria selected vendors selling niche items, from pottery to pecan pies.
“It was a huge success. People in the neighborhood absolutely loved the convenience. You almost felt like you were in another country, like French markets where people just walk around. It was just really beautiful,” says Santamaria.
Santamaria has big plans for 2021. A permanent vegetable seller and coffee roaster will set up in the parking lot, and Christmas trees will be sold next holiday season.
“During these challenging times, I found that cooking at home is really a common language. It brings people together,” Santamaria says. “I want this market to become a place where they can come and get different ingredients for new recipes or have a cup of coffee.”
To apply to be a vendor at Marta’s Gourmet Market, email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found at the Marta’s Gourmet Market Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/martasgourmetmarket.