New Year-Round Farmers Market Already Has a Waiting List
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The year-round farmers market under construction in Cedar Rapids can already point to one early sign of success.
Operators of the New Bo City Market, 12th Avenue and 3rd St. S.E., say the facility won’t open until the last weekend in October. But there’s already a waiting list of people who want to sell produce, meat, baked goods and craft items.
The $3.8-million dollar renovation project will convert a former food processing plant into a showcase for local vendors in a public market. More than 260 would be sellers applied for a spot to sell their products. Operators say there’s room for about 46 vendors indoors and another 160 outside. The outside spaces will operate only on a seasonal basis from May through October.
Dennis Rehberg’s family was excited to hear they made the “cut” for an indoor market spot. Rehberg Pork of Buchanan County raises antibiotic-free hogs and sells frozen pork cuts mainly at farmers markets in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area. Rehberg said he usually sets up at about five farmers market locations a year. He expects buyers to snap up 500 to 600 pounds of his pork products at the downtown farmers market in Cedar Rapids Saturday.
But Rehberg was more excited about the New Bo news because he sees indoor, year-round sales as a new opportunity.
“It’s a big deal, it’s going to be a deal where I can market my products all year round and be able to have new customers all the time,” Rehberg said.
Ann Poe, executive director of the New Bo City Market, said the merchant selection committee for the new market cut the list of applicants for the indoor spaces from 60 to 30 at a meeting Thursday night. Some of those on the list will want more than the standard 10’ by 10’ booth space. She said organizers will take a good look at the product mix to see who makes on the final seller’s list.
“The first thing we take a look at is the diversity of the product being offered,” Poe said adding “so what you’ll see in the market is one coffee vendor, one florist or someone who sells flowers and so on.”
Vendors who made the list for indoor space will need to submit a business plan and other paperwork so market operators can make the final selections. They hope to do that by mid-July. Poe said they will try to encourage those who don’t qualify for a year-round space to consider an outdoor location around the main building.
Rehberg said selling throughout the year, from an indoor location, will present challenges as well as opportunities. For one, market operators will probably want him to stock fresh pork instead of the frozen meat products he typically sells at outdoor farmers markets now. That may require investing in coolers and other equipment he doesn’t have. But with so many new, potential customers up for grabs he’s willing to adapt.
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