Opportunity for Change
Founded in 1909, local farmers and artisans alike have sold their goods to city market visitors for more than 100 years. In 2010 the Lansing City Market underwent a major reconstruction and is now located along the Grand River in Downtown Lansing. Today there are 22 full-time, year-round merchants, with anywhere from three to 10 seasonal merchants daily.
The newly constructed market is made up of a mix of both previous and new merchants. While the attractive new building encouraged newcomers to set up shop in the market, the availability of more space also allowed veteran merchants to expand their already existing businesses. Such is the case of Aggie Mae’s Bakery, who was confined to not much more than a cupcake case at the old market but now offers a full bakery, complete with a deli with catering capabilities, thanks to the market’s new physical capabilities such as on-site ovens.
According to Scott Keith, president and CEO of Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority (LEPFA), today’s Lansing City Market is part of the nationally growing trend of urban markets. Located in the inner core of a city, urban markets offer a variety of quality goods to an urban area, one typically not exposed to such products.
“It is a very different operation than the old market. I always like to stress that. I think it is part of the success,” Keith explains. “We saw an opportunity to change where we were going and recreate what we had by taking something old and adding in what people want now. Whether it is Cleveland, Philadelphia, Madison…all those locations are learning to change. They are not just produce markets, they are urban markets offering good quality meats, vegetables, bakery—you name it.”
City residents are loving Lansing’s new urban market, as there has been a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in visitors over the past couple of years, with a double increase in ATM usage. The market’s implementation of the statewide Double Up Food Bucks program, which matches up to $20 a day per customer in food assistance benefits spent at the market, has resulted in a triple increase in EBT usage.
A factor of the growing popularity and success of the market is believed to derive from its nostalgic atmosphere and the young professionals’ growing interest and value in healthy eating.
“Customers want that service experience where we are not just buying a product but we know where it comes from. There is a person telling us about the product, a human interaction. We are seeing a reversion back to that. That is the one thing the market can provide that other grocers cannot,” Keith says. “You are meeting the person kneading the dough and baking the bread. That does not happen at a Meijer. The fact that we can have many of those types of merchants in one location is an advantage to customers.”
In order to attract young professionals to the market, Amanda Snook, LEPFA’s marketing manager, has focused heavily on social media like blogs, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail marketing. Merchants have also joined in on social media marketing efforts once they witnessed the impact it could have on increasing the number of visitors to the market. Although definitely maintaining a focus on the traditional older adult and retiree customer, efforts to attract the 20- to 30-something crowd is key to the future success of the market.
“The young professionals is the next group who is going to become that older customer,” Snook says. “It’s about setting that pattern of saying, ‘I do want to know where my food comes from and this is the place I can find that out.’”
LEPFA is also dedicated to assisting the Lansing City Market’s merchants to grow and strengthen their businesses, providing one-on-one business consulting with market manager Joe Lesausky, and offering business guidance by way of their Small Business Speaker Series. At the series events, local business professionals come in and talk with merchants to help increase their business knowledge on subjects such as marketing or product development. Held once a quarter, the series has welcomed such speakers as BIGGBY co-founder Bob Fish.
In addition to quality products and friendly service, the market also offers seasonal special events and family activities. A valuable component of the city, both economically and socially, the market continues to strive to support its merchants and visiting customer—ensuring a popularity that will last another 100 years.
Lansing City Market
Scott Keith, President/CEO
Joe Lesausky, Market Manager
Amanda Snook, Marketing Manager
325 City Market Drive