818 Night Market: Pandemic passion projects turned into local businesses

Many chose to pursue their passions during the pandemic. 818 Night Market shows that sentiment is here to stay.


Taylor Arthur

Attendees walking about at the 818 Night Market in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, Calif. on July 10, 2021.

Trevor Morgan, Online Editor


At first glance, the 818 Night Market held in Mission Hills on July 10 seemed like any other pop-up event, flea market or swap-meet before the pandemic.

It looked like anything you might expect from a local vendor market: rows of pop-ups, a local rock band playing, and little to no shade to reprieve patrons from the 90-plus degree dry summer heat.

It was, on first impression, seemingly unremarkable.

This was of course before I actually talked to the vendors, reveled in the artistic, quirky and sometimes odd things that they were selling, and heard the stories of how they started their ventures.

Stories like that of Jenny Navarette, who started making and selling t-shirts at home when she had more free-time on her hands during the pandemic. But she wasn’t the only one.

Of the approximately 50 local vendors at the night market, more than half of them started during the pandemic.

“I did human resources before I did this,” said Navarette. “I managed multiple businesses in different fields and I decided to put all my skills [into] this and start my own business, and in our first year of business, in a pandemic, I made the same [amount] I would working 40 hours a week.”

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 26% of workers said they would not be returning to their previous employer once the pandemic ends, and approximately 38% said that they “felt stuck” in their careers.

The Night Market seems to be, in a way, a product of this trend.

“There’s a lot of people that deal with trauma differently,” Navarette said. “People who are creative, I feel, have put their creativity [into] a business, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.”

Many of the vendors said that once they lost their jobs, had their hours drastically reduced, or decided on their own to pursue their passions, there was no turning back. They simply refused to go back to what they were doing before the pandemic.

“There are more vendors now than there was pre-COVID,” said 818 Night Market founder, Brandon Palmer. “Just because so many people lost their jobs … they got old passions back and a lot of people have found new things that they enjoy.”

Danny Carrillo, co-founder for the night market event, was one of these people. He said that a single conversation with Palmer prompted him to leave his nine-to-five job and commit to the market full-time.

“Working a day job was never really my thing,” Carrillo said. “All the jobs I’ve ever had, I really liked. But it wasn’t, like, a passion for me … I was literally telling [Palmer] the other day, I don’t think I’m ever going to go back to a nine-to-five.”

Palmer said that the night market originally started as a local art circuit, before opening up to local non-art vendors. He also said that the only qualifications to participate in the market were that they were local and that they were organized.

“We wanted to have a good variety, something that appeals to everybody,” Palmer said.

Palmer’s vision of what he wanted the market to be was quite evident. Many stalls sold home-made jewelry and home-made shirts, with others selling collectable Pokémon cards, novelty action figures and their own artwork.

“I feel like, during the pandemic, a lot of us never had the time to actually pursue what we wanted to. Being in [that] industry, like nine-to-five, I realized I [expletive] hated working nine-to-five,” Navarette said. “We’re at multiple stores [now] and I don’t see us stopping anytime soon.”

On a final walk around the market, I saw how the pandemic had changed so many people’s lives in so many different ways. That out of the massive illness and loss of life, great economic repercussions and the seemingly irreversible political and social divisions that affected us all in one way or another, the pandemic may have a silver lining — even if it’s small.

That when people are faced with an event that causes change to this magnitude, it makes them reflect on their own lives, sometimes causing them to make a personally massive change in reaction and sometimes with seemingly positive results.

With this in mind and contrary to my first impression, the 818 Night Market in Mission Hills was, in fact, quite remarkable.