The circle of a community

Proceeds for Nickel City Indie Market go toward Tool Library

The Spectrum

For Darren Cotton of Colden, N.Y., it started off as living in an apartment in University Heights with a deadbeat landlord who didn't fix anything.

Cotton and his friends ran home to grab some tools out of their parents' garages - they had no previous experience or knowledge in repairs.

Then he had an idea. He envisioned a centralized resource center for people who want to enhance the neighborhood but may not have the money or materials to do so.

Thus, in 2011, the Tool Library on W. Northrup Place was born.

"We decided to take it upon ourselves to start to do our own repairs," Cotton said. "When we started, on our grand opening we signed 15 people and right now we're right around 300."

The volunteers at the Tool Library have been collecting money through grants, membership and fundraising events to cover utilities, upkeep on the tools and rent to keep the shop open.

One of those events is the Nickel City Indie Market, where a handful of skilled artisans come together in the University Heights the fourth Friday of every month. The Nickel City Indie Market is a free event that allows artists to share their passion through art and then sell their creations to help fund the Tool Library.

Pam Harris, a Buffalo native who put the event together, has been consistently watching its growth and progress.

"When we started out, I had eight vendors at first and then over time it grew to over 32 new members," Harris said.

Vendors who come out to the market presented their artistry and trade skills with handmade purses, bracelets, jewelry - they even give customers mind readings.

What used to be a studio room in the Tool Library has been renovated by a group of volunteers, made up of UB students, to create the space for the Nickel City Indie Market.

"We could not have done it without them. These students came out and really helped us recreate the room," said Ann Terentino, the facilitator of the market.

Terentino helped Harris with the market and has been one of its biggest supporters. She is also a University Heights resident who has noticed the increasing popularity of the market and shop.

"What Pam has done here has been increasing what she does for her people," Terentino said. "Last time we did this event, we had four or five new people join the Tool Library, so this has been working both ways."

When Harris proposed the idea of the Nickel City Indie Market, her friends and family furrowed their brows in skepticism.

She didn't care what people said, though - Harris was still going to launch her idea. She said it would "either fly or won't and it's been taking flight now."

Mickey Vertino, the president of the University Heights Collaborative, has been a valuable contributor of the Nickel City Indie Market, helping to provide the free space in the Tool Library for the market.

Vertino reiterated that the market's income helps in supporting the Tool Library and those involved in the market "have a good time" contributing to the shop. But Terentino wants to do more with the market; she wants to make a tighter, closer community. And bringing the Heights together is something she heavily promotes.

"It's this whole circle to help save the community, promote the community and bring the artist to the community to try to have the community purchase and learn," Terentino said.

With the event only being one night a month, the market and shop are looking for people to come check out the shop and support their cause.

"We're looking for other or younger people to come up," Terentino said. "One of the biggest things that we'd like to see are students who would have anything new to bring to our market."

The next Nickel City Indie Market is April 25 at the Tool Library.