Interviews: QNS Spaces, QNS+A

Queens Int’l Night Market

Night Market

One of the coolest things about the Night Market is that we’ve got a mix of vendors doing this as aspiring entrepreneurs. But we’ve also got vendors who do this for fun with their families–for a love of sharing their culture, cuisine, and story with our visitors.

With the 2nd year of the Queens Night Market kicking off next Saturday (April 23rd, 6pm-midnight), we chatted with the creator, John Wang. He opened up about his thoughts behind his $5 cap for food vendors, the importance of his relationship with the vendors, and what we can expect this year.

For those who don’t know, can you give us some background on what the Queens International Night Market is? Also, when are you returning this year?

The Queens International Night Market is a family-friendly open-air market that celebrates the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of Queens and NYC through affordable street food, art, and performances.

We are returning to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, albeit about 100 yards south of where we were last year. It’s currently scheduled to run on Saturday nights, 6pm-midnight, from April 23rd until August 20th. We may continue through August and September if we can find a suitable alternate location.

The opening night last year had a huge turnout! Is there anything you and your team can do to prepare for something of that scale happening this year?

I’m not sure I can do anything about the crowds that will come out on opening night, however, in our new location (a bit further from the street) we’ve got some more room for visitors to spread out and set up picnic blankets. Although the excitement is really amazing, if not a bit nerve-racking, I’ve been encouraging everyone to consider coming out on the second, third, even fourth week. I’m sure the lines will be shorter and vendors won’t risk selling out quite as quickly.

What do you suggest for visitors getting to the Market?

I am asking visitors to avoid bringing their cars if possible. The Night Market operates on the edge of a vibrant residential community, and I’d like to minimize any inconvenience the event has on the surrounding neighborhoods.

With a lot of markets they typically require vendors to sell for a set number of days/weeks, what are your thoughts on this and how does the Queens Night Market’s policy on this differ for vendors?

If vendors aren’t making money, I don’t think you should try to force them to stay. And if you aren’t bringing enough visitors (for whatever reason), then the event organizer has to shoulder a lot of that blame.

I think a lot of the success of the Night Market (and the future success of the Night Market) depends on our relationship with vendors. We try to lower the barriers of entry for vendors and also try to be as flexible as possible.

What is the reasoning behind your $5 cap for all food vendors? Do you think it deters food vendors or visitors?

The $5 price cap isn’t for everyone. You know, we probably can’t have much in the way of truffles, uni, or lobster at that price point. But, personally, markets for me were always about affordability. And at the end of the day, vendors can make money on margins or volume (or both). I think we are able to draw the crowds we do, and the sheer diversity of the audience we do, because of our unique mission of making it as affordable as possible for visitors. Hopefully these crowds drive profitability by volume. I don’t necessarily think it’s a tough debate. It’s just another thematic element in our curation process and realistically, I can’t remember someone telling me they went to the Night Market and had low-quality food. At the end of the day, I’m very pleased that the vast majority of our vendors made money last year, and I can only think of two that may not have at least broken even at the end of the season.

On another note, one of the coolest things about the Night Market is that we’ve got a mix of vendors doing this as aspiring entrepreneurs, where profit is clearly a priority. But we’ve also got vendors who do this for fun with their families, for a love of sharing their culture and cuisine and story with our visitors.

How does the Queens Night Market differ from other markets?

I’ve always just proceeded with my vision of what I’d like to see in a market in NYC — diversity, affordability, and accessibility.

If you design a market with those guiding principles in mind, hopefully they will manifest themselves in every experiential or observable aspect of the Market.

Can you share with us one take away that you learned running the Queens Night Market a second time around?

That it’s not that much easier the second time around!

What types of performers can we expect on opening day and the following weeks?

We have some returning performers and lots of new performers scheduled. On opening night our electric violinist and our hula dancers are returning along with Spells and Curses. Over the first few weeks, we’re expecting Bollywood dance to street dance to unique DJs to instrumentalists to latin bands, asian bands, etc.

We never stop looking for vendors or performers. We look for interesting cultural performances that you might not find everyday, and we also look for performances that will engage the visitors.