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Savannah Wilkinson and her mother stepped into the Winter Makers Market Saturday, where booths lined the walls, offering products ranging from handmade soap to frozen pasture-raised chickens.

Wilkinson stopped first at Simplicity, a new business offering handcrafted gifts. She held a up a chap stick tucked into a colorful butterfly holder to show her mother. She bought it along with a colorfully-packaged hot chocolate pack for Valentine’s gifts she’s putting together for her siblings.

It was the first time for her mother Kimberley Wilkinson at Wyoming Food for Thought’s Winter Makers Market, which started for the season last month at its new location in the former Powder River Veterans Club on First Street near downtown.

“We thought we’d come check it out because we have some really good local people who I think deserve some recognition and deserve to get their businesses out there on the regular,” she said.

Local nonprofit Wyoming Food for Thought recently bought the building, now called the Good Food Hub. Besides the weekly winter market featuring homegrown and handmade food and products, the nonprofit’s future plans for the facility include year-round farmers markets, a grocery store of local products, a roof greenhouse, and for the space to become a business incubator, Wyoming Food for Thought associate director Cassandra Baker said.

For now, the space allows the nonprofit to expand its Winter Makers Market to once a week, and shoppers soon will be able to see progress on the building with renovations as they return week to week.

“We’re really excited about that, and we want to get people coming through the door, not only to support our local vendors but we’re really excited about people coming and seeing the space and the progress as we move forward,” Baker said.

Wilkinson and her mother made their way through the vendor booths, stopping next at Woody’s Hat Six Honey for honey lollipops and honey sticks for her Valentine’s Day gifts and a bottle of honey for herself.

She left the market with salsa, pull-apart pizza bread and fudge, while her mother bought fresh salad greens, a handmade necklace and the last container of hummus from Sweet Zoey, a new Casper business selling baklava and hummus.

The Winter Makers Market is helping owner Zoey Aldahash launch her business, Sweet Zoey, which she started a few months ago. She plans to take advantage of upcoming opportunities at the Wyoming Food for Thought’s new space.

People will be able to start and expand their small businesses with market stalls to learn the ropes of a storefront without the overhead, as well as a commercial kitchen where they can make and have products licensed to sell to grocery stores and restaurants, Baker said.

Aldahash plans to sell her baklava at local coffee shops, which requires a commercial kitchen, she said. She plans to start soon in another commercial kitchen and at the Good Food Hub when it’s ready.

“If I use the kitchen here, bake here and sell at the same place that will be great,” Aldahash said. “We’re excited.”

So far, business has been taking off online and at the winter market, where people can try free samples, said Basheer Alkafaf, who helped Saturday at the booth.

“That’s the magic, the free samples” he said. “If people try it, they’ll buy.”

Even for vendors with established operations, like Deb’s Fudge Kitchen, the now weekly market is a chance for more business during a slower time of year for events, said Deb Humphreys, who sells 400 flavors of fudge and a full menu with her mobile business.

“It’s our permanent place instead of thinking we’re going to have to move again,” she said. “I think the Good Food Hub is going to bring a lot to Casper. This is going to be a community.”

The Winter Makers Market runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays through May at Good Food Hub, 420 W. First St. For information go to to wyomingfoodforthoughtproject.org/wintermarket

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Star-Tribune reporter Elysia Conner covers arts, culture and the Casper community.

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