Union Market and Gallery Creates Tuckerton Seaport Buzz

Even Among Island Folk
By JON COEN | Aug 09, 2017

Business is generally built on some sort of capital – a loan, investors, or seed money.

When the Union Market and Gallery opened at Tuckerton Seaport (formerly Scojos restaurant; Skeeter’s before that) on Tuesday, there was immediately a line stretching toward the door. But this is a venture started more on buzz than budget.

The new spot will serve as both a market of locally handmade items and an eatery of healthy, locally sourced food options. The collective owners of this new Little Egg Harbor hot spot are Jeanine Errico, Dani Corso, Erin Buterick and Robyn Pallotta, known locally as the MakeShift Union. What these female entrepreneurs lack in capital, they make up in creativity, and possibly more importantly, in networking. Many in the area are well aware of the MakeShift Union through their events, philanthropy and very comprehensive social marketing.

At their very root, they make things – handcrafted goods. As the “Union” they are well known around the LBI region for Maker’s Fest, a curated craft and food fair that was a success beyond anyone’s expectations at Beachview Farms in 2015, followed up by the 2016 Maker’s at Manahawkin Lake Park. They initiated Third Thursday pop ups, the holiday Night Market, the Makeshift Row addition to Hop Sauce Festival and several other side enterprises and connections of like-minded people combined with sharp social media skills. Now more than ever, people around LBI see the value in building the local economy through connectivity and innovative ideas.

“There’s no question that the network we built up prior to this has helped us,” said Errico, on a quick break from the register. “We’ve shown people that they can trust us. And when we start a new project, people feel comfortable working with us.”

It was the Maker’s Fest that really brought these girls together. That, and their specific tastes. Errico and Buterick had been the previous owners of School of Vintage, a vintage clothing shop in Surf City specializing in stylized weddings.

Errico is an abstract artist. She had been the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences manager of administration and programming right until the new spot opened.

Buterick wears several hats, usually ones she made herself, going by the names Clayhouse and Project Erin, creating handmade clothing and doing custom alterations.

Corso first became known in the business community for her social marketing prowess. She is the founder of Volatile Media Management, the local web/social media operation that has set new standards on LBI, which you could say, until recently had outdated marketing philosophies. She works with local apparel company Jetty, the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, Farias Surf, Pinelands Brewing Co., David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, and numerous events, always tying in some kind of charitable cause.

These ladies were well into the process of planning for the Union Market this spring when they spoke to Pallotta. She and her husband, Ty, own 777 Tattoos in Manahawkin and had opened The Schwee Tea Company in 2013, the first mainland eatery to put an emphasis on quick serve vegetarian and health food. In the last few years, Corso, Buterick and Errico have all become regulars. After selling the business but maintaining the name and recipes, the Pallotta’s moved their family to Austin, running the tattoo parlors in both New Jersey and Texas. She was managing an Austin juice bar as well.

For this interview, Pallotta popped out of the kitchen for the first time all day to see how things were flowing in the sitting area.

“It’s hard to work for someone else after you’ve had your own place. When Dani told me about the kitchen, the idea was living in my head. So I called her and said, ‘Hypothetically…. how would you feel if I were to help out with that restaurant space?’ She was like, ‘Hypothetically… that would be amazing!’

“Now we all say ‘hypothetically….’ in front of everything.”

Errico and Buterick were in agreement and the Pallottas started planning their move back to the area to open PICKT, which is right in the gallery space.

The menu, aside from desserts, is what she calls “approachable” vegan, highlighted by such items as vegetable pad Thai salad ($7), avocado toast on sprouted sunflower and flax seed bread ($6), a “crabcake” (heart of palm and chick peas, $7) sandwich, and chili ($4.) This month the menu is abbreviated. The full menu starts Sept. 1. They also have products from the businesses they have special relationships with, such as Schwee Tea iced tea, Side Door Donuts, and The Woo Hoo ice cream.

Certainly one of the primary offerings at the Union Market and Gallery is coffee. These busy women rely on coffee to fuel all they do. Coffee is a big part of creative culture.

They’ve partnered with Dallis Bros., a Queens-based coffee distributor that sources high-end, Fair Trade Certified coffee beans from around the world. Customers can invest in “memberships,” from $5 to $100 per month, that entitle them to different perks. The $50 Limitless level includes unlimited coffee, discounted handmade goods, and more. The $100 “Secret Stash” membership includes all of that plus a custom mug; invites to exclusive events; and you can name a coffee drink on the menu.

A sign by the front door makes it very clear, however, that membership is never required to enjoy great coffee and art.

The building didn’t require any structural changes. They painted the interior with help from friends, and Tuckerton’s Frank and Leigh Ann McGuigan donated their time to paint the exterior. Local craftsman Phil Adams built the live-edge wooden bar outside. Artist/handyman Ryan Walsh helped with some of the cosmetic improvements. This will become a venue for music and events.

“We consider this the Maker’s Fest inside four walls. Before this, we didn’t have our own place to meet. And there was no coffee house in Little Egg Harbor. This is going to be a good place for art groups to meet up,” said Buterick, who had her hands full all morning making espresso and chai lattes.

The choice to open a space in Tuckerton is an interesting one, considering their involvement in the Island and progressive nature, but they have all either grown up in Little Egg Harbor or lived there for a good part of their lives. They embrace what the town has to offer.

“When I opened a business, I discovered that there are so many people who live here who had a connection with the Maker’s Fest or the Foundation. They appreciate what’s happening on the Island, but they love living in Little Egg. They don’t want to pay Island prices. And it’s not that they’re cheap, but the Island gets expensive. So we’ve done our research to make our coffee prices competitive with Dunkin’ Donuts or Wawa. We have local people coming in and saying, ‘This is what we need in this town,’” remarked Errico. “And the artwork is selling – even mugs that say ‘F---ing Coffee’… in Tuckerton!”

Albert Rowland of Tuckerton is a Pinelands Regional teacher’s aid and football coach. He was anxious for the place to open on Tuesday. There aren’t many healthy smoothie options in town, plus he appreciates the art.

“It saves me the 40-minute trip to Beach Haven,” he admitted.

In addition to Errico’s art on the walls, there are wooden works by Walsh; jewelry from Wandering Gypsea; figures by Kelly Killagain; sculptures by Metal Elementz; Brook Milano of West Village Tribe’s live terrarium; and textile designs by YellowNest.

The Union Market is the natural extension for these women and their relationships – a brick and mortar fulfillment of their passions.

“It’s all about storytelling, sharing the artist’s experience, and forming a personal connection. That’s how you create value,” said Corso, who has undoubtedly had a part in changing LBI for the better, leading by example to convince the business community to act a bit more like a community.

“We can’t take credit for what’s happening. There are so many small organizations that are the roots of what we do, and they’re super supportive of us,” Corso said.

The Union Market and Gallery are located at the Tuckerton Seaport, 120 West Main St. (Route 9). They are open seven days a week, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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