Courtney Ford Hamil is passionate about her hometown. She beams ear to ear when talking about DeLand.

“I love this town. I grew up here. But it was not this cool growing up here.”

In the last few years, Hamil has been at the forefront of turning this friendly community of more than 28,000 people into a “cool,” hip destination.

Hamil grew up in DeLand and moved away to pursue her career as an event planner. When she returned, she fell in love with the historic town all over again and embarked on a mission to put it on the map.

Sitting off I-4 between Daytona Beach and Sanford, DeLand had come a long way since the 80s and 90s largely thanks to the efforts of the MainStreet DeLand Association. The non-profit organization works to enhance the town’s economic development and promote its heritage. Over the years, DeLand had been recognized numerous times for its vibrant downtown with dozens of specialty shops, restaurants and bars. But Hamil saw the need to do more.

She wanted to create a movement to make DeLand a true Central Florida destination. She wanted to introduce what she calls “this little gem of a downtown” to a wider audience.

So in 2012, Hamil launched a new concept – the DeLand Indie Market at Artisan Alley. Her vision was to hold the market 4 times a year in the alleyway that spans a city block between West New York Avenue and West Georgia Avenue.

The DeLand Indie Market has been going strong ever since and continues to grow. For this highly-curated event, Hamil and her team invites more than 70 vendors to participate each month. They set up shop in tents along Artisan Alley and inside the Artisan Alley Garage, a multi-purpose event space connected to the Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company.

Hamil says the Indie Market gives small independent businesses a chance to shine. The range of goods offered is eclectic; there’s vintage, clothing and jewelry boutiques, pottery makers, gourmet foods, artists, apothecary items, antiques, eco-friendly products, handmade goods and more. The selection and range of items continually evolves with each market.

“There’s nothing like this going on in the area that I know of,” says Courtney’s husband Russell Hamil, who sells “mantiques” and other vintage items from his online business Newfangled at the market. “It’s really helped Artisan Alley be the driving force of making DeLand a real hip, with-it community.”

“I just really love the sense of community, getting to know the vendors and creating really amazing relationships with them,” Courtney explains. “I’ve met some of my best friends doing this. It’s an amazing town full of amazing people.”

Take a Video Tour of the DeLand Indie Market at Artisan Alley