Finding a home at the Night Market
When Kenechi Onyeagus was preparing to take part in the Beaverton Night Market last year, she had her doubts about whether she could pull it off.
"I was petrified" Onyeagus said. "I didn't know if I could do it."
That's because her Nigerian pop-up and catering business, Motherland Treats, was just getting off the ground, and she hadn't done any events yet. But the City of Beaverton, which hosts the Night Market, worked with her to help get her ready.
"It was awesome because I wanted to start a business, but didn't really know how to or what resources I needed," Onyeagus said. "The Beaverton Night Market was just a perfect platform. It held our hand throughout the whole process."
The Night Market, held at The Round in Beaverton, brings together about 45 food and craft vendors, and about a dozen performers, from a wide range of cultures and ethnicities. It is now in its third year, with two summer dates — this Saturday, July 22, and again on Aug. 12 — and is a product of the city's Diversity Advisory Board.
"It's something that they come up with a couple of years ago," said Alexis Ball, the equity and inclusion manager for Beaverton's Office of the Mayor. "There were people around the table from all different countries, and realizing they had this common place they would visit, as kids or adults back in their home countries, and it was usually some sort of a market experience. They wanted to bring that feeling and that space here to Beaverton."
The Diversity Advisory Board was started under Mayor Denny Doyl, who said he's a big fan of the Night Market, and estimated that the first year's attendance was around 8,000 people.
"The best way to learn about people is how they dance, how they sing, what they eat," Doyle said. He added that the Night Market is an opportunity to, "let people know that people in Beaverton appreciate the different things that different cultures bring to the table."
Motherland Treats will return to the Night Market this year. Onyeagus will serve up traditional street food from Nigeria, where she lived until the age of 18. Her mostly vegan menu includes fried plantains and black-eyed pea fritters with friend onions, barbecue sauce and chipotle sauce.
Since debuting at the Night Market last year, Motherland Treats has done several other pop-up events in the greater Portland area. The business also does private catering, and Onyeagus hopes to eventually sell her Nigerian iced tea commercially.
"We've grown a little bit, and we're back this year, and this is how we started," she said. "For me, the Beaverton Night Market will always have a special place, because it's a launching point for greatness."
For Onyeagus, the Beaverton Night Market is an extension of the home she's found in the area.
"Oregon's special to me," she said. "It's now home for us."