Out with the Old in with the New
According to Scott Keith, president and CEO of Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority (LEPFA), “We were given an opportunity about three years ago to sell the site of the former market to the Gillespie Group. As we looked at the cost of renovating the old market, we realized that it made financial sense to sell the land and use that money to build a new facility closer to the Grand River and the Lansing Center.
“We knew that the River Trail was undergoing an expansion and renovation, which would enhance the area around the new market. And with continuing residential development of the downtown area, including the Gillespie Group’s plan for residential building on our old site, we knew that we had an expanding urban market.”
Market Manager John Hooper adds, “We had a series of community meetings with consultants, local groups and neighborhood associations. In fact, I think we had over 50 meetings in all, talking about exactly what we wanted the Lansing City Market to become. Everyone agreed that we wanted it to be more than a commercial facility. Our hope was that it would become a destination in itself, a go-to spot where the whole family could find something to enjoy.”
Keith says, “We want to be a place for shopping, entertainment and fun. We’re bringing in music, special events and other attractions. Inside the facility, there is a restaurant being built by the Simmons family who also own the River House Inn. There will be about 50 seats inside as well as an outdoor space on the riverfront.”
The Lansing City Market has expanded its hours of operation and is now open for business Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Later hours make it easier for people to stop in on their way home from work and for those who live downtown to come in the evening to shop, listen to music or visit the restaurant. Every stall at the market will be open all the hours that the market itself is open.
The facility opened in January with indoor vendors. Summer will see an influx of both inside and outside vendors bringing farm-fresh foods to Lansing tables. There are currently a total of 23 sellers inside the building with an additional 10-12 outside. There is a list of vendors at the market’s website; the list includes such long-timers as Bob Falsetta of Bob’s Market with a record 50 years at the market, and Glenn, Ruth and Paul Hills of Hills’ Home Cured Cheeses running a close second with 49 years. These and other veterans are joined by relative newcomers such as Iorio’s Italian Ice, City Fish and The Grain Market. Many of the vendors have their own websites, listed on the market’s site, where you can find more information.
Hooper says, “We plan to have four large seasonal events every year—a Harvest Festival in the fall and continued participation in Silver Bells as well as spring and summer events. Every weekend, we host smaller events, like the Michigan native plant and flower day and a Mother’s Day flower festival. We also have music on Saturdays and invite nonprofits to set up information tables. On Fridays, the Lansing Community College radio station broadcasts live from the market.”
For those who haven’t visited the market in its new incarnation, there are familiar sights as well as many pleasant surprises. Natural and organic foods, custom made jewelry, fresh flowers, lattes and espressos, lotions, perfumes, fresh bread, chutneys and salsas and other delights are artistically displayed along with a dizzying array of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We’re all about small local businesses and family farms,” Hooper says. “Consumers are becoming more aware of all the benefits of buying local products. The buyer knows right where things come from when they buy direct from the producer. Food grown locally is fresher and, more often than not, healthier—and buying from locally owned enterprises has a financial benefit as well.”
Hooper is right on the money (so to speak). It has been estimated that, compared to chain stores or “big box” stores, locally owned businesses recycle a larger share of their revenue back into the local economy. In fact, for every dollar spent at a locally owned business, 73 cents stays in the local economy. If you spend that same dollar at a business that isn’t locally owned, only 43 cents stays in the local economy.
According to Hooper, “In a way, we serve as an incubator for small businesses; Horrocks, Roma Bakery and Fabiano’s Candy all started here at the Lansing City Market.”
Hooper is the only full-time employee of the market, but LEPFA’s staff pitches in for anything that needs doing. LEPFA manages the Lansing Center, Cooley Law School Stadium as well as the Lansing City Market. Keith says, “We’re proud of the success of the Lansing City Market. It is being seen as a model for urban farm markets.”
Consumers can sign up for an e-mail newsletter and weekly updates and also listen to WLNZ for frequent news about specials and events at the market.
Keith anticipates that urban “pockets of energy” like Old Town, REO Town and the Downtown Lansing urban hub will continue to build on success and become even more vibrant and exciting. Both Keith and Hooper mention the idea of a water taxi on the Grand River. As Keith says, “San Antonio did it and all they have is a little canal. We have a great waterway here, the River Trail and lots to see and do downtown!”
Who knows? With this kind of enthusiasm and continued interest, investment and innovation in the local economy, the sky’s the limit.
In addition to the vendors featured, Lansing City Market vendors include: A Basketful by Sharl, Aggie Mae’s Bakery, Alice’s Kitchen, Andrew Graber Farm, Better Finds, Bob’s Market, Bob’s Wife’s Soaps, Get Mint Trading Co., Giving Tree Farm, Greenman’s Produce, Iorio Italian Ice, Massage Therapist Rita Grissom, Nodding Thistle Farm, Riverside Studios, Sarge’s Soup and Sandwiches, Seif Foods, Shoua’s Kitchen, Soulful Earth Herbals, Splash of Sunset Photography, Sun and Rain Gardens, Sweet Seasons Orchards and Willowbrook Farm.
Coming Soon: Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, the Waterfront Restaurant, Weavers Webb and Caruso’s Candy Kitchen.
Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority (LEPFA)
Lansing City Market
Scott Keith, President and CEO
John Hooper, City Market Manager
325 City Market Drive