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The Origin Story of Ardent Market - Ardent Market

The Origin Story of Ardent Market

As I prepare to wrap up the third year of Ardent Market and navigate the chaos of summer, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the past. I've been thinking about the road I've already traveled and looking back to where it all began, quite literally on a highway six years ago.

At 25, after helping my mentor close his incredible, life-changing store, I wondered what I was going to do with my life. So, I packed up my little Mazda and embarked on my first epic road trip. And when I say epic, I mean a journey that lasted almost three months, crossed 32 states, covered more than 12,000 miles, and took me to countless cities and national parks. To add to the drama of those numbers, this was a solo cross-country trip. It was my "eat, pray, love"—and by that, I mean eat really incredible food all the time, panic cry, meditate frequently, and fall head over heels for small business.

I'm not sure what I needed to do in 2017, but being an aggressive homebody, suddenly jobless, with some small savings and a borrowed camera, I guess I saw myself as a travel blogger with an email list of 213. The trouble was, that I hated being a tourist, and I was terrible at it. My idea of travel is to have zero plans and just go. Some days I had a list of things I wanted to see, but most of the time, I was winging it. As only I know how in inappropriate situations, I planned to ask every friendly local about their favorite part of town and lean into that suggestion. I allowed myself to be awful and wonderful at something, and I think that's why I'm here now.

I've never been one to shy away from hard changes or exploration. But, not having any semblance of a life path after my dad passed and my working home closed, I was in freefall, going "so far, so good," somersaulting my way to a crash landing.

I landed with a thud in Concord, North Carolina, in a 90 thousand-square-foot antique mall (to put that into perspective, it had a food court). I got lost filling up three carts worth of things and a 5' dough bowl, which my family has lovingly renamed "The Canoe." The entire store was whispering about the California girl buying a bunch of stuff. Halfway through my power shopping, I called my mom and told her I was going to start a shop of my own. You know, the normal things you do when you're 2,110 miles from home, in a tiny sedan, and only halfway through your trip. She asked me what took me so long.

That night, I used up dozens of pages in my travel journal and wrote about what this shop would look like, who it was for, what made it special, and what I would carry. I scrolled through pictures and stashed all the business cards I instinctively picked up from the beginning. I was so grateful the buyer trained in me never really subsided. Suddenly, the items I collected, because they were cool and would make great gifts, turned into the pulse of the collection you've shopped—baskets from New Mexico, jewelry from Savanna, antiques from North Carolina, pottery from Maine, and art from Portland.

This is why I take so much pride in our artists, their craftsmanship, and labeling where things come from. As my love for traveling the US grew, I started forming attachments with friendly locals in Fort Collins, artistic communities in Santa Fe/Madrid, Scarborough flower farmers, and the Indigenous lands where so many inspiring people inhabit. Whenever I consider bringing in a new maker or artist, I always check my stack of business cards first or read through a maker's about page. I will probably always be collecting life stories, discovering new places, and appreciating beautiful objects.

"Out of an impulse to see, explore, and connect, I found a way to visualize, share, and build."

Ardent Market began from wild, intuitive epiphanies. Out of an impulse to see, explore, and connect, I found a way to visualize, share, and build. It's part of AM history to take to the road in discovery and exploration, just to see what could happen. It might not mean being in a little car piled with boxes (you haven't seen me at a good flea yet), but it will always be in celebration of the beauty of this country, its resources, and the incredible people who inhabit it. I'm so grateful for the road we've covered together, and I'm so looking forward to the miles ahead, uncharted, with a full tank.




I hope you join the anniversary festivities! I am hosting an anniversary sale—20% off your purchase until 7/30. No code is needed.




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Deanna King - August 1, 2023

I love this! I remember when you told me you were going to pursue this full-time! You made it happen and continue to bring me joy with everything Ardent Market! ❤️

Paul Koehnke - August 1, 2023

Nice to read the origin story once again and congrats on 4 years!


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