On Tuesday earlier this November, the season’s first snow fell on the Tuckerton Seaport, a postcard shout-out to the approaching holiday season. Stepping into the warmth of the Union Market & Gallery, the celebratory vibe continued—everything was merry and bright, from the indie-folk soundtrack to a steaming bowl of loaded potato soup, a special well-suited to the weather.
Since it opened in 2017, a cool blend of locals has made this makerspace-meets-cafe their creative home in southern Ocean County. For that we have three intrepid local entrepreneurs to thank. Building on success running the wildly popular Makers Festival in Manahawkin, Dani Corso, Jeannine Errico and Erin Buterick have crafted a fresh recipe to bring people together that’s one-part coffee, plus one-part community and one-part creativity.
From left, Dani Corso, Erin Buterick and Jeannine Errico of the Union Market. Photo courtesy of the Union Market
As they prep for their Made on Main holiday makers market on Saturday, November 23, we caught up with Corso to chat about the synergies between coffee, food and art.
TH: What’s the connection between the Union Market & Gallery and the Makers Festival?
DC: Makers was established in 2015. We opened The Union Market in 2017 as a direct result. We were asked on a daily basis: “When’s the next Makers?” Makers is a beautiful monster that takes a year to create. We wanted to create a place that could be home for us and a second home for our guests. It started as a co-op with a focus on coffee and art. Within a year we ended up moving into full ownership of the space.
TH: You have a gorgeous location.
DC: Being at the Seaport and on the water is amazing. So is being in the center of town. I grew up here, so it means a lot. I had to drive to Toms River when I was 17 to get a coffee. Now we’re able to invite in people from all walks of life.
TH: The menu is heavy on music references: The Nirvana, The Bikini Killer, The Minor Threat…
DC: A good pork roll, egg and cheese is a good pork roll, egg and cheese. We wanted to make it fun and memorable. Whether it’s the band name that catches people’s attention or something that they haven’t seen before, it’s about getting creative: a new idea, interaction or connection. The Holiday Nirvana this year is our Nirvana [bacon, cream cheese and spinach on a bagel] with jalapeno-cranberry chutney. Now that’s a go-to, because it’s a limited-edition scenario.
TH: Who’s your chef?
DC: Erin [Buterick] runs the kitchen and she’s completely self-taught. Our menu is really about home-cooked goodness. This place has been called a warm hug, and I think having Erin in the kitchen makes it real. Her vegan breads are also out-of-control good. [Tip: Call or email for holiday orders.]
TH: How have your customers inspired your evolution?
DC: It doesn’t matter where you are as far as food or politics or anything else: It’s a very open space for all kinds of people. My mantra is: coffee, connectivity, community. We started with a coffee membership. It was basically an internal crowdfunding campaign, where people invested in a place that didn’t exist yet. Every single time someone signed up it was such a testament to what this community does when they want something to happen. This region is unlike any other: When people see passion, whether it be for a nonprofit, small business or family in need, everybody comes together. We have been really lucky to be a part of that.
Our staff also helped to build this space. We’re super grateful for them, so we have a completely pooled house. All of the tips that come through the front are distributed evenly. We wanted to make sure that everybody here feels like they are an equal part of this project.
TH: What does it mean to cultivate community here?
DC: The new wavemakers in the area are just bringing more attention to all of the positives that have existed for decades. Tuckerton has so much history. There are roots in folklore, in folk history, in folk arts. The amount of creativity is out of this world, and I think it comes down to the fact that this was a major port. There were people coming in from all over the country and parts of the world. The Seaport has been really good at continuing to build arts as community, and it all ties into a shared creative current. Being in this room is a beautiful illustration of what is available and present in Tuckerton.
TH: Speaking of creativity, what’s the plan for Made on Main?
DC: Made on Main is really fun. It’s a mini-Makers with a holiday twist, our winter wonderland. Erin is a self-described Christmas fanatic. She absolutely loves Christmas, so the vibe here is going to turn nostalgic.
We’ll have 40 or so vendors outside and 20-plus inside. We bring carolers from Bellarine Theater Company. We have fire pits from Baker’s Acres Campground. For the first year, we have beer from Pinelands Brewing Co. to benefit Alliance for a Living Ocean. The Court Appointed Special Advocates of Ocean County will be here doing a creative gift drive for foster children. Our DIYs are also super special. The Jess Press is doing custom gift tags that can double as keychains. Nikki Leah Designs will be doing an ornament make and take for adults and kits. And we’ll have Saint Nick—the old-school Saint Nick. He’s very specific about that.
Made on Main is a whole-day event because we want people to be able to hang out. That’s the most important thing for us. It runs from noon-8.
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