Balkan Bazaar at Autumn Leaves, Nashville 2009
How did our Balkan Bazaar folk shop evolve? For years we collected authentic Balkan and Bulgarian costumes, artifacts, ethnic and interesting things. When the treasures overflowed our closets and the guest room, we offered some to our friends and fellow folk dancers in a small exhibit at a folk festival. People loved and bought our stuff!
In 1989, Richie and I began having weekend sales in Dick Shapiro's folk dance barn. We named our business Organization Promoting Ethnic Tradition, which was too long to fit on a banner. We shortened it to OPET Folk Shop. After years of confusion about OPET, OPEC, oil prices, etc, we changed our name to Balkan Bazaar. OPET is a fond memory, but please don't make your check payable to it!
OPET gas station - sadly, not ours - in Sofia
Where’s the shop? Well, there isn’t one until we travel to folk dance camps, workshops, weekend events, and festivals and set it up.
How do we carry all this stuff to events? In 1989 we packed everything into a white station wagon. As the shop grew we expanded to a maroon minivan named Ajde Red. In November 1998, we bought Big Blue, a 15-passenger van. No plans to expand – no trailer, no bus. There’s no more space at venues, no time to set up a bigger shop. Balkan Bazaar’s been on the road for 30 years -- lots of packing, driving, unloading, and driving.
Richie & Big Blue, ready to go home.
Travel horror stories. The white station wagon once died in Aberdeen, MD, enroute to Heritage Festival in Philly. A friend drove down, picked up Suze and some of the shop while Richie waited for the repairs. After Ol' White died again on I-95 near Baltimore during a shopping expedition, we retired that vehicle.
Interesting adventure without trouble: Suze drove to a folk dance weekend in Ajde Red the minivan with a canoe tied on top. A grad student in Chapel Hill paid $100 to deliver the canoe to his new home in Ohio. Oddly enough, carrying the canoe increased the gas mileage.
A smoky story. Some years back, a week before Texas Camp, Big Blue was in a local garage for a routine oil change. The mechanic had our window open; there were a few things inside. The garage caught fire overnight and smoke filled the van's interior. Big Blue had to be steam-cleaned and was eventually repaired, but look at the melted side mirrors next time you see us. Several days and several adamant arguments later, the garage's insurance company sent us off to Texas Camp in a brand new white 15-passenger rental van that we dubbed Great White.
Balkan Bazaar enhances and decorates folk dance events with color and texture. Our textiles, rugs, and costumes give Balkan ambiance to the scene. We display authentic costumes so folks can better appreciate Balkan culture. Our display adds to the overall enjoyment of a folk dance weekend, and participants can take home a folk souvenir or traditional handicraft.
If your group is planning a workshop or festival, we'll consider bringing Balkan Bazaar to your event. Ask us for details and let's compare calendars.
At non-Balkan festivals we have a non-Balkan shop called Tribal Threads which offers a World Closet of ethnic and ethnic-looking clothing and accessories. We specialize in batik, tie dye, and ikat textiles, global gifties, and treasures tailored to the theme of your event.