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Fulton Street Farmers Market sprouts indoor vendors

May 1, 2013
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Fulton Street Farmers Market plants indoor vendors
The Fulton Street Farmers Market offers locally grown fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, plants and homemade arts and crafts. Photo via fb.com

When it kicks off its 91st season on Saturday, Fulton Street Farmers Market also will unveil its new 2,000 square foot indoor vendor space.

The indoor facility is the final phase of a $2.9 million project that also included the addition of a roof to the outdoor market space and several infrastructure upgrades completed in 2012. The final phase of the project cost $500,000.

In addition to six 10x10 stalls, the indoor space also will house an information desk that will sell Fulton Street Market merchandise, an ATM, market office space and handicap-accessible restrooms. It is expected that the indoor space will earn LEED silver certification later this year.

“I just think, especially with opening day coming up and the completion of our project and the Downtown Market beginning to complete theirs and open, it’s an exciting year for food in West Michigan and Grand Rapids,” said Melissa Harrington, FSFM market manager. “We are really excited for anything that helps raise the awareness of the rich diversity we have in terms of agriculture here in West Michigan and the great farmers that we have. We are really excited to kick off our 91st year and keep bringing the best to the city.”

Up until three years ago, the Fulton Street Farmers Market ran an open-air market only, which was open the first Saturday of May through the last Saturday before Christmas. For the past three years the market has been offering a year-round outdoor market on Saturdays and has regularly seen at least 16 vendors participating.

“The intent at the inception of this whole project was to have an indoor market for year-round vending, but we started doing year round vending … Saturdays from January through April, and we’ve been outside,” Harrington said. “We’ve already outgrown that building so we will have some vendors inside the building, but then we will still have some vendors outside during the winter, too.”

Six vendors will be housed in the indoor market space, with two of them — August’s Kitchen and Real Food Farm — time-sharing space during the week.

“The main two things we were looking for (in permanent vendors) was product variety – we didn’t want five meat vendors – but then also it was a commitment to coming all four days a week when we are open so that the building will always be fully staffed with vendors.”

Indoor vendors and products

Fantabulous Fudge, which offers fudge, caramel corn and other confections.

Hickory Knoll Creamery, which offers its own farmstead goat and cow cheeses.

Local Epicurean, which offers handmade pasta.

Rakowski, which offers meats, cheese, milk, eggs, maple syrup and ice cream.

August’s Kitchen, which offers artisan-baked goods, high-end pastries and quiche.

Real Food Farm, which offers greens, tomatoes, squash and other garden producs.

Jill Johnson, partner with Crane Dance Farms, said the improvements to the market have been very beneficial to tenants. She noted that the infrastructure was a problem previously, but now having access to water and electricity at the stalls — plus a roof over their heads — is a great addition. Johnson said she is looking forward to kicking off the season Saturday at the market.

The capital campaign project reinforced the community’s commitment to the market, which is the oldest in the area. Funding for the full project came mostly from donors, with more than 700 individual contributions made to the campaign.

“I think that really shows how many people really feel vested in the Fulton Street Farmers Market and care about it,” Harrington said.

The market is a staple of the neighborhood with a far-reaching reputation and community-wide economic impact. According to a release provided by the market: “During peak season, the market welcomes about 10,000 customers, and each one of them spends about $20 at another local business on the same trip. So, the market folks figure Fulton Street market generates around $200,000 per week, or just over $10 million per year potentially, for local businesses in Grand Rapids.

“It’s worth noting, about 33 percent of market customers come from more than five miles away, bringing suburban dollars into the city for shopping at the market and other local businesses.”

The outdoor market provides 118 stalls and an average of 60-70 vendors sell their products throughout the week. Harrington said that during the course of the season the market sees more than 300 unique vendors. It reports that it hosts 11,000 shoppers during a typical week.

Regular market hours for both the indoor and outdoor markets are 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; Wednesday evenings from 4-7:30 p.m. in June through September;  and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday for the ARTisan market. The market is located at the corner of East Fulton Street and Fuller Avenue NE.

A WIC/EBT electronic pilot program is in effect at the market and in July, the farmers market will resume its Double Up Food Bucks Program.

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