It was going to take much more than a frigid February day to stop students from lining up outside tents by Robinson Hall to browse Valentine’s Day gifts for that special someone in their lives.
“I’d like to get something for my boyfriend,” says Fiona Kelly as she stood in a long queue to enter one of the themed indoor tents, Industry Place. The sophomore, wearing a mask, a wool Red Sox hat, and spaced apart from other gift-seekers, was scrolling through her phone while waiting to view some of the wares inside.
Northeastern’s Valentine Marketplace had plenty to offer, from traditional chocolates that say “I Love You” ($3 a bar) to Black-owned businesses selling a variety of plants and men’s grooming products.
Kelly, who is studying business, psychology, and ethics, says she walked 30 minutes from her apartment and had already checked out what was for sale in the nearby Bamboo Garden tent. “They had a lot of cool stuff,” she says, but didn’t buy anything. She planned to leave it up to chance and would know the right gift when she saw it.
“I just want to see something and be, ‘yes, that’s it!’” she laughs.
An entrepreneurial student from Russia, Nadya Shavashova, sold a line of hand-made crocheted jewelry that included necklaces, bracelets, and earrings ranging from $25 to $100 apiece. Other items can be found on the website of her company, Happy Hour of Crochet.
The name comes from the busy period in her life after her children were born, when she had just a small portion of the day to herself. What was once a hobby is now her profession.
Several students were gathered around her table, gazing at the items for sale. “People are really interested, especially for Valentine’s Day,” says Shavashova, who is pursuing a certificate in project business analysis.
A few feet away from her station, Northeastern’s Advancement Office sold a variety of live, colored roses as well as s’mores kits, plush husky toys, and other items. Proceeds will go to a student-managed mobile food pantry run by NU Mutual Aid, a charitable organization.
“Business has been really good,” says a masked C. Hawkins, director of student engagement and philanthropy, as he worked the table.
Long queues outside were caused by high interest and capacity limits caused by the pandemic. Students were allowed inside the tents through one set of doors as others exited through another. Student volunteers monitored the doors to make sure everything ran smoothly.
Seeing the growing throngs of people was a welcome sight for Henry Palmer, who finished his Master of Business Administration degree at Northeastern in March, during the pandemic lockdown. His company, Lochtree, sells eco-friendly products, including coffee filters made from reusable organic cotton.
A big part of his business came from in-person interactions at pop-up shops and farmers markets, he says. “Then with COVID last year, literally, almost as soon as I got going, that all closed down.”
But with vaccinations on the rise and infections on the decline in parts of the country, “we’re now starting to see a bit of daylight,” Palmer says.
For those still reluctant to venture out, Northeastern’s online marketplace of locally-run businesses is taking Valentine’s Day orders.
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