Catholic Pop-Up Markets on the Rise

Local Church News

The Rise of the Pop-Up Shop

Visit a town or church festival and you’re likely to shop a bit. In 2020, community events were put on hold. The livelihood of those who relied on selling at those events became uncertain. In 2020, the area saw a rise in stand-alone vendor events, also called pop-up markets. Markets were held on neighbors’ porches, church parking lots, or backyards. Entrepreneurs began to organize events separate from larger institutions.

That move built on an existing trend that Forbes identified as a result from rising real estate and e-commerce. When the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated shutdowns closed so-called non-essential businesses, artists and makers turned more than ever to social media to sell their work. Eventually, groups began organizing informal pop-ups and used social media networks to spread the word.

But with California’s high cost-of-living, more Catholics are building side hustles or sole-proprietorships. This allows them to work flexible hours from home. And many of these business owners are women.

Traditionally, parishes follow the church bazaar model. Parishioners donate or collect items to be sold at the event, with all proceeds benefitting the parish or program itself. The Christmas Fair on November 19 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sonora follows this model. There, visitors will find jewelry, crafts, gift baskets, religious items, Christmas items, and baked goods for sale.

So as vendors are finding and making opportunities to sell their products through pop-up shops, Catholic vendors are asking for ways to get in the game. The opportunities for distinctly Catholic products sold by for-profit companies remained slim.

Catholic Pop-Ups

On July 30, Holy Family Catholic Church in Salida hosted a pop-up event to raise funds for the church’s building project.

In the coming weeks, Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto and All Saints University Parish in Turlock parishes will host pop-up markets.

Our Lady of Fatima’s Vendor Event

Our Lady of Fatima Vendor Fair flier

For two days, Our Lady of Fatima Parish will hold its first Fall Vendor Fair. Over thirty vendors will set at the event hosted by the Modesto #110 Young Ladies Grand Institute, a Catholic women’s organization.

Kathy Paioni first began organizing vendor events with her husband when they began the Salida Town and Country Parade and Festival. After 16 years of chairing the festival, she knew the events were lucrative. Vendors pay a registration fee. Event organizers provide the space and audience. Vendors set their prices and keep their profits. Paioni looked for a way to use this model as a fundraiser for YLI.

At Our Lady of Fatima’s Fall Festival, proceeds will go to different causes. Vendor fees will support the Golden Jubilee Burse for the education of seminarians. Rather than allowing outside food and drink vendors, YLI will hold a bake sale and sell chili with cornbread muffins. Bake sale proceeds will support the YLI Grand Presidents Program for ALS, Lou Gherig Disease. Chili and cornbread profits will go to the Sisters of the Cross, a cloistered convent in Modesto.

The YLI Institute keeps only 15% of its profits. That’s all they need to financially support the work of the small institute, Paioni said. Modesto #110 Young Ladies Grand Institute is associated with Our Lady of Fatima, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and Holy Family.

In the past, Paioni organized events like the Vendor Fair at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church but said over the years she finds it increasingly difficult to find parishes who want to host a pop-up style event. She said several locations were unresponsive, dismissive, or asked for space rental fees that significantly reduced the funds YLI could raise. That was not the case at Our Lady of Fatima, led by Fr. Ernesto Madrigal. “They know the good work we’re doing,” Paioni said.

For questions or to sign up contact Kathy Paioni at

The Bethlehem Market

At All Saints University Parish, Leslie Sousa is organizing The Bethlehem Market. The Bethlehem Market is an Advent artisan market focused on drawing Catholic vendors who sell arts and crafts.

Sousa said her vision for “The Bethlehem Market is to bring the community together during a season, Advent, that is supposed to help us draw closer to Jesus.” She laments that Advent “often becomes four weeks where we stress to buy all the gifts we need, decorate our homes, and figure out a family plan for the holidays.” Sousa said she hopes the opportunity to buy religious items for Christmas will help shoppers “remember the real meaning of Advent and Christmas.”

In her marketing, Sousa’s emphasizes the importance of shopping local. She thinks it “makes a big difference to know exactly what our money that we spend on presents will be supporting. Is it going to a big corporation, or is my money supporting another Catholic family and business in the area?”

Follow The Bethlehem Market on Instagram @TheBethlehemMarket. For questions or to sign up, email

Good for Parishes. Good for Businesses

Catholic pop-up markets offer a unique opportunity in non-profit fundraising where organizations are seeing a decline in volunteerism. They support those laypeople, who may not be working traditional day job but have instead opted out of the traditional workforce. Attendees shop local and connect personally with business owners, strengthening the Catholic community as a whole.

Church News is an independent off-shoot of “Here’s to the Good Life!” a weekly column considering the beauty and challenges of a flourishing life.