Originally published in Crain’s Chicago Business
September 9, 2014
There’s a bit of a farmers market battle shaping up in the West Loop. The Randolph Fulton Market Association and City Winery are co-sponsoring a West Loop Farmers Market Sept. 13 on Randolph Street just west of Racine Avenue.The market will feature fresh, local produce as well as prepared and artisanal foods and organic products mainly from businesses and restaurants in the area.
It’s about 10 blocks from Green City Market Fulton, which launched this year at the corner of Halsted and Fulton streets and takes place every Saturday through the end of October. Green City offers local and regional produce, cheeses, meats and breads from some of the same farmers and food purveyors who sell their goods at the original Green City Market in Lincoln Park.
Does the neighborhood — not known for big crowds on a Saturday morning — need two farmers markets at the same time in such close proximity to each other?
Roger Romanelli, Randolph Fulton Market Association’sexecutive director, says his group began planning for a market in mid-May before they learned of Green City Market’s intention for a new outpost in the West Loop. The association’s board was adamant about locating the market on Randolph near Racine to boost foot traffic to nearby retailers and restaurants. When his group learned Green City was scouting a location, he invited representatives to collaborate with him, but they weren’t interested, Mr. Romanelli says.
“We’ve been disappointed at Green City Market’s approach to our neighborhood and the locations they were looking at,” he says.
For its part, Green City Market representatives say they welcome the competition. “It would’ve been nicer if we could’ve all worked together,” notes Vi Daley, co-chair of Green City’s board. Besides, “competition is never bad. We’re all trying to do the same thing: bring fresh, local food to the community.”
Mr. Romanelli says his group will hold another Saturday market day in October if the first one is a hit. It also is making plans for an undisclosed indoor location that will operate year-round. Mr. Romanelli couldn’t define what that success would look like on the first day, but he is optimistic that local residents and chefs will come out to support the new market.
“Now all we have to do is pray for good weather,” he says.
– Judith Nemes