Midnight Market: Jersey City’s First “Foodie Nightlife” Experience

midnight market

As the next Midnight Market rolls back around, we’re getting super excited and rallying more of our friends and family to experience the event. If you haven’t been to one, go! The first time we went was in February and we loved it so much that we invited a few of our friends to come with us to the next one in March. They did and they had an amazing time as well! The next event is on April 14th and it’s dessert-themed. (Teaser: You might see Alice in Wonderland or Willy Wonka.) We’ve invited more of our friends and family and we can’t wait to see what they have in store!

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Photobooth fun at the St. Patty-themed Midnight Market last month!

But, first, before I go into a rant about my love affair with food and then having to force myself into the gym, what is midnight market?

Midnight Market

midnight market

It is Jersey City’s very first night time food market. Since it’s a 21+ only event, it’s a great substitute to the usual “Friday night activities,” especially if you want to have an amazing time and actually remember it the following day. You all know what I’m talking about. ;p With its 5-5-5 pricing across the board–$5 cover, $5 food, $5 drinks–it’s super budget friendly. There’s also a DJ spinning a good variety of music, and last time we went, they had a massage area.

Midnight Market is held at the Harborside Atrium, which is a short train ride from Hoboken and NYC, making its location very convenient. There’s also multiple bars and lounges around the area, so don’t be shy about continuing the fun elsewhere after the market closes its doors at midnight (hence the name Midnight Market). The food vendors, and we’ve tried quite a few, were very nice and they had amazing food. Special shout out goes to House of Gains and their Tuna Poke! Though I don’t eat raw fish, a couple of my friends have tried it and nothing but flying color reviews from them.

Naturally, as we like to share stories of startups and entrepreneurs, the huge success of Midnight Market prompted us to contact the creators to see if we can feature them on Breaking Boundaries. Imagine our excitement when we heard back from them and they agreed to speak with us.

Alysis Vasquez and Perla Nieves
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Lisi and Perla. (PC: korendezvous)

Meet the creators of Midnight Market!

It was Perla we initially spoke to when we reached out to them on Facebook and, after a quick call, we scheduled a time to meet. We had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to Alysis, a.ka. Lisi, at the second Midnight Market we went to. She was on a well-deserved vacation when we met up with Perla for the interview, but from what we’ve gathered, Lisi was already a successful  business woman prior to Midnight Market. She’s the founder of Chilltown Kitchen, a supper club experience right in Jersey City. Lisi is an experienced chef and has been featured on food networks such as Chopped and was one of the Start Something Challenge finalists.

Perla is the assistant property manager for the real estate company, SILVERMAN. She is also a Bloomfield College graduate with a major in Communications and has extensive experience in social media marketing and the music industry as a sound engineer, programmer, and radio personality. She also owns a videography and editing company, Perla Peralta Productions.

The Meetup

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About two weeks after Midnight Market: St. Patrick’s Day, we reunited in a conference room in SILVERMAN. Right off the bat, we felt very comfortable with Perla because she has a really fun and quirky vibe. We spoke for almost two hours (we originally intended 40 minutes) but we just had to pick her brain because she was spitting out legitimate nuggets of wisdom. We wish you guys could have been there to actually hear her, but we’ll do our  best to share the knowledge with you. 🙂

“How did Midnight Market start?”

“So, Midnight Market, honestly, it came from Lisi. Lisi’s amazing. She’s gonna yell at me for saying all this stuff, but she’s really amazing.  Lisi and I, we’ve always tried to come up with ideas. We were like, ‘Oh let’s do a cooking channel on YouTube or let’s do a vlog, a food vlog, and they all failed. We just never followed through. So,  I don’t know where she essentially got the idea, but I think it all just came from us just going to markets. And she just thought, ‘You know what would be really cool, if we maybe hosted our own market’ and I’m like ‘Well, how? What do you mean exactly?’

She said, ‘Oh you know, maybe put something that’s a bit cheaper. Maybe set a price point. I feel like when we go to markets, we have to commit to one stop cuz you get a really big sandwich for $8 and you go to the place next door to get a beer and you just spent like maybe $6 on that and you’re spending so much money.’ She’s like, ‘what if we set a price point at $5?’ So, then, obviously I trusted her because she’s a chef so she knows the cost of food and she knows how people can make it happen. So I said, ‘If you think it’s possible, let’s start. Let’s go out there to different vendors and let’s see if people would want to do it.'”

“Why food and not other things?”

“So it’s very simple. She knows food. I know how to market food. We don’t know the industry of selling things. Like, I don’t have the knowledge of it and that’s why we haven’t tapped into it. Also, Midnight Market’s branding is 5-5-5. Everything is $5 so once you start going into the whole market of selling goods, you can’t control, that cuz, I mean, you can pay $5 for a sandwich and then you go look at goods and someone will sell you a bracelet for $75 and you’re like, ‘But I came to a cheap event. I want to only come with 20 bucks and have a good time.’ So I think that’s why. I mean, obviously we love food and that’s how we tapped into that. And, I think for us, we wanna make it into a party. So if we start having someone sell goods, then now you’re walking around with a bag. Now you’re not gonna dance because you have things to carry with you. So, for us, it’s very simple: we understand the industry and we don’t want people walking around with bags.”

“So Midnight Market turned out to be extremely successful. Did you have any experience running events?”

“We don’t have experience in event planning. However, we both started out as servers. Hospitality, I feel like an old lady saying this, but whenever I see a young kid who’s looking for a job I tell them, ‘Just be a server one day. Just learn people.’ Seriously. You learn so much about people. You learn about hospitality, you learn about the way people think and that’s a really good way to start off in the world. Like, okay, now I understand people and why people get upset at certain things and why they want things a certain way and it kind of teaches you how to value something because people want value. No matter if I have the most expensive restaurant, people want value. So we didn’t come from planning events. Lisi had her supper club and she kind of did those things on her own but we always joked around and we say: ‘We grew up with what’s basically the hostess with the mostest.’ We have moms that will always throw the biggest parties when we were kids and we’d end up helping out. It’s funny because now we think about the way we work and the way we host everything and were like, ‘My god, we’re just like Kathleen and Mona? Is that who we are now? We’re like our moms.’ So between being servers and understanding people and having our moms the way they are, Lisi understanding the food side of it and, for me, the marketing side of it, it kind of just brought everything together.”

“So, you and Lisi sound like you have been very entrepreneurial from the start.”

“I think Lisi and I just have a very entrepreneurial mindset. I mean I hope. I hope it works out that way. Just because I think we always found ourselves, I mean, not to speak for Lisi but I’ve known her a long time, but from her perspective, she went to culinary school and she really loved the concept of being in the kitchen. She just fell in love with it. Then, she ended up working in different kitchens, even at Craft in the city. If you throw her in a kitchen, she could do just about anything because she tried to master each space. The thing was, she just didn’t feel fulfilled. She then decided, and I remember this very well because our friends and I were really scared for her, to just quit everything and just focus on doing supper clubs in Jersey City. She was actually the first one out of all our group of friends to say, ‘Okay, I’m talking this big step, guys. I’m not gonna go out, I’m not gonna see you guys for a while.’ She was kind of, like, MIA for a while cuz she was just at home working on her stuff, so she really focused and she managed to get Chilltown Kitchen going.

So, from my perspective, I actually started working at SILVERMAN as an assistant property manager and it’s great. They’re really, really good to me. I can honestly say if I hadn’t worked here, the Market wouldn’t be where it’s at right now because I met a lot of people in the community that could help. From that, when Lisi presented the idea to me, I jumped on because I felt that I could use the communication skills that I learned in college. I felt that I wasn’t utilizing these skills at work, and I wanted to do something. I just didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what my next step was going to be. So, when she presented the idea to me I was like, ‘Yes lets do this!’ I felt like excited so that’s kind of what got me going.”

“Awesome! Can you tell us a little bit about some things you’ve learned since you started?”

“You know, I mean, the first event, the first event was just crazy. In our mind, we thought okay, we have this idea. People are going to love it, maybe 1000 people will show up. When we opened at 6:30, there was the longest line outside.  We just see this big line and we tried to work out the logistics as much as possible, but everything we planned for at that first event just all went to the garbage. Nothing that we planned went the way we wanted to. People were coming in and the first hour we got hit with 1000 people and, honestly, I thought 300 people were gonna show up and 300 and 1000 is a big difference. We had power outages, we were running out of food, we had to give some people refunds, people were screaming at us, like it was bad. I’m telling you, the first event was nothing the way you saw it.  We learned so much that day. We, literally, even in the middle of the event, we just looked at each other like can we just run away? And pretend this didn’t happen? It was bad. I wanted to cry. It was really intense.”

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More people in line as we were leaving. 🙂

“Wow.. so how did you guys bounce back from that?”

“Yeah, so, I remember the next day, people were going on Facebook and they were writing terrible reviews about us. They were like, ‘Oh the biggest scam in Jersey City, blah blah blah’ and, you know, I had to stop for a moment and I looked at Lisi and I was like, ‘You know what? This is rough.’ We even had people on Facebook say the ‘company’ did a terrible job at event planning and event planning wasn’t for everyone. But it wasn’t a company. It was literally just the two of us and my husband.

So we were like, ‘Wow we really suck.’ We felt terrible, but we looked at each other and we were like, ‘Are we gonna keep doing this?’ And were like, ‘Yeah, let’s just try it again.’ You know what? We got a beating yesterday, so let’s just get up and try it again. You know, plan for the next one. So, we said that was rough but it’s fine, we’ll keep it going so it was just a little bit difficult. I remember even telling Lisi from the second event on, it’s gonna grow because if we failed from the second one, that means we weren’t meant to do this, but people came. They were very happy and they had a great time. We keep learning and we keep trying to perfect certain things.”

“That is a great comeback. What made you want to keep doing it even after the first event? I think most people would have gotten extremely discouraged and given up.”

“We were driven by bringing a new idea–something totally different to Jersey City. We still feel that way but I think, for us now, once we made these relationships with the vendors, they’ve literally become a little family. The vendors are great. I love them. It brings us so much joy to hear people say they’re doing great. From my perspective, it just makes me so happy and, it’s great, all the feedback that we’ve been getting from the community. People are very excited. It’s just to see a whole room filled because Lisi and I managed to make it happen, it just fulfills me so much. It just makes me feel like, okay this is great, I love doing this here. I’d love to take it to other places. So, hopefully, once we get Jersey City down, were hoping to go to other locations as well.”

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Perla checking on one of the vendors, Kimchi Smoke

“We have readers who are trying to dive into their own projects and, obviously, it takes some time to start something and their family and friends don’t really understand why they’re so busy all the time. Can you just touch on that a  little bit?”

“For us, it kind of worked out perfectly because, our group of friends, we all connect obviously because we’ve been friends for years but we all started doing entrepreneurial things at the same time. Now at our hangout sessions, we get together and we’re on our laptops. So, from my friends’ perspective, they totally get it because we’re all on the same boat.

My family is different. I love my family. My sisters were all very understanding but they didn’t  really understand what I was doing with the market until they came out. So once I finally got them out to see it, they were like, ‘Oh my god, this is what you guys are doing. This is why you guys haven’t been around.” So, the best thing to do is to literally bring them into your world. I had my mom stay with me for a week and she saw how I was running around. It’s still hard. It’s a slow process, but I think the first thing was putting them in my world and taking them to the event and letting them see what I’m actually doing for them to understand why I can’t be around.”

“Do you think having the results that you’ve had might have contributed to them understanding more?”

“Having results, yes. That’s because my family they have high expectations for us so I think if they see that there’s results,  I mean if they see it failing they’re not gonna be like, ‘Oh my god, you’re terrible.’ They’re gonna be like ‘Heyyy, so you should probably stop.’ But I mean, not to be very blunt that’s just how they are. Lisi’s family is very supportive and our families are very similar. I think it’s because we’re successful that they’re starting to understand why we’re not around more often, but it was a struggle to get there.”

“What would you recommend to someone who wants to do events?”

“The first thing is know your goal. Know what you want to focus on. We’ve had so many people approach us with different things to do. Our goal is food, we love food, so we know that’s our focus. The second we start saying, ‘Oh yeah sure, I’ll have, I don’t know, a purse vendor.’ Now you’re mixed in and you’re not focused anymore. It’s definitely very important to know what your angle is–the way you wanna brand yourselves. In any type of field that you wanna go into, you wanna make sure you’re the person that provides one specific thing and be the best at it. And then it gets people feeling like, ‘Oh wow, I wanted this one thing and I can just go to you and get exactly what I wanted. Perfect.’ So just finding that exact purpose.”

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One of the vendors, House of Gains.
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Waffle It & Co.

“So, we see you guys post a lot of great pics and videos on social media. How do you differentiate what content to put on which platform?”

“I’ll be honest Twitter is not really my forté so we put content out there just so we know it’s there. But, for Facebook,  we use specifically for events. We love to put our vendor videos because they get a notification when people say they’re interested in going to an event, so it’s a constant reminder. I like to put out gifs and videos so people can see and they might think, ‘I like how these girls are funny. I can’t wait to go to events with them.’

On Instagram, we really try to focus on just putting out what everyone calls, the “food porn” because you know when people start looking on our feed, we wanna make sure it’s consistent. I don’t want to just have a stream of food and then, all of a sudden, it’s me standing in front of the Eiffel tower. It’s random and it just doesn’t look right. So, for Instagram, that’s where people go for food porn and, for Facebook, that’s where they go for information. I try to keep our captions very different. I try to keep it longer and more detailed on Facebook because people are willing to dedicate time and read more on Facebook than they are on Instagram. If you write a very long caption on Instagram, no one’s gonna click on the ‘read more..'”

“Awesome! So, to wrap up, any advice you like to give out?”

“Never give up. It’s cheesy, but it’s so true. If Lisi and I had given up after our first event, none of this would have happened. Also, another thing too, and this is again very simple, just be nice. Just be nice. Our vendors, they love us . We can literally say, ‘hey guys were gonna jump into this volcano, are you guys in?’ And they’ll be like, ‘Yeah!’ (Just Kidding!) They just like us because we’re nice. We’ve had smaller vendors and very big vendors that have done so many bigger events and they tell us, it always comes down to us caring about them. And we do.  We really, really care and we try to be so nice because it builds value on to our brands.

I’ll give one more advice: answering all your emails and making sure everyone hears from you. That’s super priority. When I was in college, I won this contest to go meet the editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine, Eva Chen, and she’s amazing. I love her. So I remember, I had emailed her a couple of questions before meeting with her and she got back to me immediately. That same day and I was like, ‘Wow is this her assistant? How is she doing this?’ So we meet with her and I asked her. She’s like, ‘I don’t care if it’s a subscriber or Tommy Hilfiger, I give everyone importance and I answer every single email that comes through.’ Just answer your e-mails.”

The Wrap Up

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PC: Felix Lincuna

There you go, guys! There was so much more wisdom and knowledge and we really do wish you all could have heard their story in person. We learned SO much and we’re just so grateful to be acquainted with Perla and Lisi. What we admire most about them is that they put together a women-owned company and they’re also minorities. It turns out that the big majority of their vendors are women and I’m sure they didn’t  intend for it to be that way but it just happened that way. It’s great because they’re helping empower other women and we’re really kicking ass right now! From spending a couple of hours hearing their story, I know, without a doubt that, for them, it’s something definitely very important.

How’s that for breaking boundaries?

The Midnight Market Creators

Want more? Here’s a snippet of the interview and some footage of the midnight market experience. Enjoy!

Website: www.midnightmarketjc.com

Phone Number: 551-227-7022

Instagram: Midnight Market JC

Facebook: Midnight Market Jersey City

Twitter: Midnight Market

Yelp: www.yelp.com/biz/midnight-market-jc-jersey-city

Catch Perla and Lisi at the NEXT Midnight Market on April 14th, 2017! It will mostly be desserts, but they’ll have a few vendors serving “real food!” Get tickets here. Also, they hold Midnight Market on the second Friday of EVERY month so make sure to spread the word!

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3 thoughts on “Midnight Market: Jersey City’s First “Foodie Nightlife” Experience

    1. Aww, thanks Brent! That’s truly appreciated. And you will! I see your hustle. 🙂 To be honest, I totally did a makeover in the friend’s department inn the past few months. Most of the people you see me with are people I’ve met after I launched BB. Super thankful for it too because they’re all so amazing!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Mannn, this sounds awesome. I wish I could attend…especially since the next event is a dessert theme 🙂 I live in Dallas, so to Jersey is a little bit of a drive lol.

    It was cool to hear how Perla and Lisi bounced back from the first event they hosted. Usually the first of anything is the roughest. Like Thomas Edison said, “I failed my way to success.” Encouraging!

    Also, the advice on answering emails is valuable. We can become bigger than ourselves sometimes and need to remember come back to earth. I’ll take this one to heart.

    Thanks for another awesome interview. Keep it up, you guys!

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