The Fredericton Christmas Artisan Market, held at the Fredericton Exhibition Centre from Dec. 2 until Dec. 4, felt warm and smelled like cinnamon.
A regal red carpet marked the pathway through the large venue. At the entrance, a man with a bushy moustache welcomed the Christmas shoppers, who mainly consisted of seniors and parents shopping on their day off with their kids. The smell of homemade Christmas candles floated through the air.
This year, 77 vendors attended. The market was a treasure-trove of Christmas gifts. It was also a treasure-trove of people.
A short walk into the market led to a small table decorated with crocheted winter accessories. A smiling woman and a young girl sat behind the table. Jennifer and Sarah Jacobs are the artists behind East Coast Loops, a handmade crochet company.
The mother-daughter duo make all their creations by hand, like hats, gloves, headbands, dish cloths, blankets and scarves. Handmade crocheted items can take hours of work, with one scarf amounting to four hours of crocheting.
“It took me a long time to master,” said Sarah Jacobs.
Sarah Jacobs said she and her mother, Jennifer, are self-taught, but Jennifer has crocheted for over 20 years.
“I’ve done all kinds of needlework. Knitting, stitching — I’ve done them all,” said Jennifer Jacobs. “This is where I landed. This is what I enjoy the most.”
East Coast Loops is in its first year of business and the aspect Jennifer Jacobs loves most is how much she is learning.
“You can hear from family and friends who love you and will tell you your stuff is great,” said Jennifer Jacobs. “But then it’s something very different when a stranger comes up and tells you, ‘this is beautiful.’”
Venturing further into the market revealed a burly, bearded man with a welcoming grin standing behind an array of barbecue sauces. This is Jon Maters.
Smokin’ Jon’s is a family-owned business run by Jon and Karolina Maters, who create and sell barbecue sauces, spices and even a hot sauce. The couple, who are now engaged, take care of every aspect of the business, from making the barbecue sauce to free personal delivery in the Fredericton area.
The attentive nature of the Materses’ business can be accredited to the barbecue sauce company’s humble beginnings.
“[We] never really had a plan on how we were going to do everything. It just kind of all naturally seemed to happen,” said Karolina Maters.
In April 2021, the Materses’ business kickstarted after one hectic day of sauce-making. After countless requests from friends and family for a jar of Jon Maters’s original smokey maple barbecue sauce — which he has been making for over 12 years — Jon was tasked with making 50 jars in his home kitchen in one day.
Without professional equipment to make the huge batch, the Materses had to get creative.
“I did it on a lobster cooker on a boiler on my back deck,” said Jon Maters. “We basically wrote everything by hand on the bottles.”
After a full day of cooking, trying to keep their cats out of the kitchen and accidentally ruining their kitchen table, the Materses agreed they were “doing this once and never again.” They gave all 50 bottles away for free.
Now, Jon Maters cooks up his barbecue sauces in a rented retail kitchen and can easily whip out 200 bottles in a day. He has also expanded from one to four sauces — and a hot sauce — all inspired by the cuisine he encountered in his travels to Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic.
Aside from his travels, Jon Maters attributes his ability to concoct new flavours to his vast experience as a professional chef, which he had to give up during the pandemic due to restaurant closures. As a child, his experience cooking at his grandparents’ motel in Newfoundland, his home province, also strengthened Jon Maters’s passion for quality food.
“I can mix stuff together in my head,” he said. “I know how it tastes without even trying it.”
Jon and Karolina Maters’s motivation lies in their passion for what they create, but also in giving customers an enjoyable experience.
“To hear the feedback from other people is pretty awesome,” said Karolina Maters. “It’s pretty awesome to make people happy.”
At any time at the market, you could look around and spot someone admiring the craftwork of a crocheted scarf, or another person taste-testing barbecue sauce with wide eyes and a grin. When people left, following the red path out of the market, they left with something they didn’t have when they came in, but they also walked out with smiles on their faces.