Society / Profiles

CEO of Houston’s Beloved Nutcracker Market Is Set to Retire After 34 Years and $80 Million Raised

Patsy Chapman Helped Transform a Once Fledging Market Into a Real Holiday Bonanza

BY // 08.03.22

The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market without its 34-year champion CEO Patsy Chapman? Say it isn’t so that the beloved Chapman is moving on to greener pastures. But, yes, the 2022 market will be her last. And that comes as no surprise to market and Houston Ballet insiders.

“This is nothing new,” Chapman tells PaperCity. “It’s been my long term master plan that when I turned 67, I would retire.”

Yet for many, Chapman’s management and presence is as much an integral part of the market as the market is a beloved Houston tradition.

After all, she is the leader who stewarded the multi-million dollar fundraiser from a fledgling market with a mere 50 merchants to today’s behemoth that annually hosts from 250 to 275 dealers and welcomes a whopping 100,000 shoppers during the market’s four-day annual run.

To date, the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market has raised some $80 million and stands as the city’s premiere market, having become a beloved holiday tradition for several generations of Houston families.

Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market Stanton Welch, Patsy Chapman (Photo by Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio)
Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch, Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market CEO Patsy Chapman (Photo by Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio)

Chapman joined the Nutcracker Market in 1989, eight years after it had been launched in a local church. It was an entirely new ballgame for Chapman — at the time, a single mother.  She had been managing shows across the country for an art publishing company and when that company closed an employment agency thought she would be a fit for Houston Ballet.

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Chapman landed in a tiny office in the ballet’s development office with a computer and a directory and little knowledge of the Nutcracker Market. From there, she mastered the subject, phenomenally grew the market, and earned the love, respect and adoration of many.

An organizational talent, Patsy Chapman found her way curating merchants, meeting budgets, meeting fundraising goals, meeting sales quotas and dealing with the thousands of individuals who are involved with the market. From volunteers and staff to board members and merchants.

“It’s had its bit of challenges, but it’s something that I have enjoyed immensely because I like solving a puzzle,” Chapman says. “And that’s what all of this has been to me, one big puzzle that I figure how to put all the pieces together. And I have loved it.”

The November Nutcracker Market will be dedicated to Chapman and while she says there will be no tears, this final market will be bittersweet.

“It’s bittersweet because it’s been half of my life here and it’s been some of the most wonderful years of my life here,” Chapman says. “And I’ve made lifelong friends, many I consider like family.”

Once Chapman has packed her bags with many, but not all, of the hundreds of nutcrackers that crowd her office, management of the market will return to the Houston Ballet development department where a team of staff will take on the task of continuing the phenomenal success that has defined Chapman’s tenure.

For Patsy Chapman, it will be a whole new world in which retirement is bliss.

“I’m looking forward to joining a book club and taking a yoga class and doing all the things that I never had time for because the job hours could be a little intense sometimes,” she says. “And making a commitment to something on a regular basis was very hard.

“So I’m looking forward to having that freedom and flexibility in my life and to just enjoy my life.”

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