Square Corner

A group of residents want to bring a public market to downtown Frederick in hopes of showcasing local vendors and reinvigorating the economy.

A local group wants to bring a public market to downtown Frederick, where city residents and visitors could shop for local produce and other supplies.

The market would provide a public space for people to gather downtown, said Frederick resident Alan Feinberg, who’s helping to organize the move to try and bring it to Frederick.

He would like a place to spotlight local vendors, where butchers, bakeries, grocers, antique dealers and artisans can all highlight their products.

“Everybody’s there, everybody’s welcome,” Feinberg said.

A market could take several forms, said Ted Spitzer, president of Market Ventures, an urban planning and development firm that has been consulting with Feinberg on the project.

It could be a food hall, which tend to focus on prepared food and alcohol for dining in or take-out; a public market, with stalls for local farmers and vendors selling mostly unprepared foods; or a market hall, which offers a mix of both, Spitzer said.

Public markets and market halls tend to be focused on a public mission, while food halls are usually purely commercially based.

While markets are often associated with larger urban areas, such as Lexington Market in Baltimore or Washington, D.C.’s Eastern Market, Spitzer said they can also thrive in smaller cities.

He pointed to examples such as Wenatchee, Washington, with a population of about 34,000, and Charleston, West Virginia, with a population of about 49,000 as examples of cities smaller than Frederick that have created successful markets.

That’s partly because markets draw from well outside their immediate neighborhood, while also serving residents who live nearby, Spitzer said.

But while they serve more than the immediate area, markets need to be careful to reflect their area and not become cookie-cutter tourist destinations, he said.

The research and analysis being done by Feinberg, Spitzer, and others will help local farmers better understand where they would fit into a market environment, said Sam Roop, president of the Frederick County Farm Bureau.

A lot of orchards and other growers in the county already have their own established stands or other venues for selling their products, and it might not be feasible for them to send someone into Frederick to work a separate market stand, Roop said.

And especially during the pandemic, some customers like the idea of coming out and picking their own produce straight from the tree or vine.

“That’s part of an experience that people who want their own food are investing their own time in,” Roop said.

But a market could provide a spot for younger farmers who don’t have established customers to develop new followings, especially for farms offering organic and other specialty products, he said.

The Downtown Frederick Partnership did a study on a public market around 2001, and has been interested in the idea for a long time, said Kara Norman, the partnership’s executive director.

It’s certainly an interesting idea, she said, but the fact that they’ve been talking about it for so long shows there are challenges.

The businesses probably won’t have high profit margins, so finding somewhere with affordable rent will be important, she said.

The ongoing pandemic also makes it hard to say when the downtown financial market settles, or what it will be in the future, she said.

The question of when people will be able or willing to gather in a large, indoor market is an important one, said Rick Weldon, director of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.

While Weldon said he’s not convinced a downtown market is the best solution, he thinks the conversation should continue.

“I don’t know that it’s the answer, but I think it’s going to take a bunch of different things to keep us moving forward,” Weldon said.

Meanwhile, Feinberg believes a market would be just the thing to help reinvigorate downtown in the wake of the pandemic.

“This is a way to do something really dramatic,” he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(6) comments

EcoLori

This is a great idea! I would go all the time. When we lived in DC years ago we did our weekly shopping at Eastern Market. In Frederick, we go to the farmers' market but it'd be great if we could do farmers' market + pick up lunch in one place. If a small town like Kennett Square, PA, can support a food hall, Frederick surely can.

pfitzgerald

The old FNP site is the ideal location but, alas, . . . . Move the hotel to the Wormald site? Win, win? I would support a grass-roots effort for that.

francesca_easa

I agree. Great idea! Charleston, SC also has a cool downtown market. Would be great to gave blacksmiths, leather makers, unique products and perhaps rotate the themes and items each month. Kudos to Mr. Feinberg for a different twist.

hgiii123

Surprised at the negative tone and pessimism being proffered by Ms. Norman (Downtown Fred'k Partnership) and Mr. Weldon (Chamber of Commerce), and ironic given they should be the ones championing this and other initiatives. It is an interesting idea to have a Lexington Market type venue in the former Carmack-Jays building, or elsewhere, particularly given the dramatic change in public attitude and behavior re. farm-to-table, organic, and an increased interest in supporting small community based businesses. At least someone is trying to be creative and move the ball forward, as I don't see others stepping up to the plate or making progress. Give the man a hand and support his due diligence, versus essentially dismissing his initiative as an old idea that's been tried before. (It's not 2001 any longer!) Maybe it's those who have tried in the past that's the problem.

Business Owner

It wasn't their idea. I think this would be great -- in Europe they call it market days and everyone can come sell anything (legal of course). I've always thought Frederick should have this type of thing -- like an expanded Farmer's Market in Central Downtown.

tcollins7906

A downtown market is needed and has been needed for many years The old Carmacks market on N Market St is a great place to put this downtown market! How can I help?

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