The Park West Market kicks off its autumn season

The Little Squeeze was founded by two young sisters, Sophia and Brielle, who are assisted by their grandmother Dianne. (Photos by Shelly Bolt/Contributor)

The Park West Market experienced a record-breaking autumn kick-off on Oct. 1 after its summer market closed for the season back on Sept. 17.

Peyton Ruggles, the market manager, is excited for the new season of market shopping to start, hopefully bringing many returning faces and even more new ones.

The market runs out of Peoria’s Park West shopping center every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until April. The shopping center itself has many stores, restaurants and a movie theater to enjoy before or after the market as well.

“It’s just a great place to meet up with your friends or family, and you can enjoy Park West, too,” Ruggles said. “You can definitely expect to find something; there’s something for everybody here.”

At the grand opening, the market had over 130 vendors, ranging from home and beauty to produce and food, plus some fun activities for families to enjoy.

“Since it’s opening day, we have some special stuff,” Ruggles said. “We had a dinosaur and princesses come. There was face painting and a caricature artist so people could get drawings of themselves. We also had a balloon artist come. All things that a family can enjoy together.”

The market also provides many different vendors for food and live entertainment.

“We have local musicians come to play live music during the market,” Ruggles said. “I think that just enjoying the food trucks we have and listening to live music really helps it feel like a serene and enjoyable place to be.”

Ruggles has been the market manager for just over two years running it by herself. She is responsible for getting everything put together for each weekend’s market.

“Park West is great to work with,” she said. “They’re very supportive of the market and always trying to look at ways to help us and be more of like a partnership.

“They really want it to succeed because it helps their establishment and the tenants that have space at Park West. So, I really love working with them.”

Typically, the market has around 120 vendors for its weekly events. Ruggles is always looking for new vendors to join and bring their distinctive crafts to the market.

“We really try to drive home the idea of us all being family,” Ruggles said. “I think that is what sets us apart from a lot of the other markets. The vendors and customers have very much recognized that we are the Park West family.”

Park West Market has grown to what it is today in the past two years. Once upon a time, there were only 105 vendors. But with its success, Ruggles has had the opportunity to watch the market’s growth and the businesses’ expansion along with it.

“I’m so grateful for the vendors that have been with us,” she said. “We really have curated a great group of people that love one another and bring their best craft or food — just something that they’re passionate about.

“You can tell they’re really passionate about it. It’s not just a job or something they do on Saturday.”

For more information on the Park West Market, visit theparkwestmarket.com or check it out on Instagram at @parkwestmarket.