international public markets conference offers lessons for success for west side market

The West Side Market is celebrating its Centennial year, prompting much discussion of the institution's past, present and future. Among other things, city leaders are discussing how best to ensure that the market remains successful for another 100 years.

Last week, however, the best ideas seemed to come not from local leaders but from others in Detroit, Santa Monica and Hong Kong as 250 market leaders from around the world attended the three-day International Public Markets Conference in Cleveland.

"The roots of our market are in local farmers selling their produce during the growing season," said Dan Carmody, Manager of Detroit's Eastern Market, during a panel discussion on the role of markets in the future of cities. "When I started there, it was a place where wholesale grocers dumped their product at the end of the week. Now we're trying to envision it as a revitalized local food system."

Eastern Market now sells locally-grown produce raised by urban farmers in Detroit, unlike the West Side Market, which only has a handful of vendors selling local produce.

Santa Monica's public market also was held up as an example. It offers valet parking for bicycles, works with a nearby cooking school to do demonstrations, and hosts "Meatless Mondays" to educate people about how to cook vegetarian.

And if you're looking for fresh, you can't get much more so than Hong Kong's Tai Yuen Market, which has fish swimming in tanks and live chickens. (The market recently installed a state-of-the-art ventilation system to deal with the offending odors.)

Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, who touted his experience working in his uncle's butcher shop as a young man, said that change is coming to the market.

"People at the West Side Market are looking too much at last year's calendar," said Cimperman to the audience. "It won't survive unless they look at tomorrow."

Among the changes that have been recommended at the market are adding more local foods, creating more convenient hours and charging for parking. There is a proposal for a parking fee, but city leaders are still negotiating with vendors.

Cimperman vowed to continue the fight for change. "The city's lease with vendors runs out in 2014,"he said. "It's time to look at the market for the next 100 years."

Source: Joe Cimperman, International Public Markets conference
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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