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NewBo City Market to Offer New Model for Local Foods

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa Kurt Friese cites the success of the "best ice cream in the world" at the North Market in Columbus, Ohio, as an example of the NewBo City Market's potential.

Owner Jeni Britton Bauer began Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in a 10-by-10-foot market stall with an ice-cream maker from Target to become a rising business star, with a growing number of stores in Ohio and her products in Brooklyn and beyond.

Just as North Market launched Bauer's fame, proponents say the same should hold true for up and coming businesses at the NewBo City Market.

"That's what I hope to see this become," said Friese, director of Food & Advocacy at the market, which opens Oct. 27 at 1100 Third St. SE.

Friese, chef and owner of Devotay in Iowa City and publisher of Edible Iowa River magazine, said not only will the market be a business incubator for budding entrepreneurs, but a gathering place and another outlet for fresh, local foods.

The market is a different model than the local food options already in existence, including the Cedar Rapids-based Iowa Valley Food Co-op, in which customers order products online from area farmers, and community supported agriculture, known as CSAs, in which members receive weekly boxes of produce from local farms.

Friese said people confuse the forthcoming market with another local foods standard farmers markets because the concept is new to Iowa.

"What we've got here is a public market," he said, pointing to the warehouse undergoing renovation at Third Street and 12th Avenue SE.

Public markets, a mesh of grass roots grocery/mom-and-pop shop and community gathering place, originated in the mid-1800s in many larger American cities as a means of bringing retail agriculture to large population bases.

"I think it will revolutionize the town and it's already revolutionizing the neighborhood," Friese said of Iowa's first foray into a public market.

The New Bohemia district has bounced back since the historic commercial and residential neighborhood was hit hard by the Floods of 2008.

Just across from the market, CSPS, an entertainment venue in a 120-year-old Czech social hall, reopened after a $7 million restoration.

Businessman Jon Jelinek can look across the street at the new market from Parlor City Pub & Eatery, a successful restaurant he opened after the flood at 1125 Third St. SE.

While the NewBo City Market will offer food, beer and wine, Jelinek doesn't see it as a competitor.

"It's definitely a plus," he said, citing new crowds the market will draw to the New Bohemia district. "This will help everyone in the neighborhood."

Brad Rizzio of Point Builders, the Cedar Rapids-based general contractor, said a crew of 35 to 40 is busy with a flurry of last-minute work.

The former Quality Chef building, previously an Iowa Steel and Iron warehouse, stretches 18,000-square-feet between 11th and 12th avenues. Previously pale green, the building has been painted brick-red, with windows punched out to let in light.

Landscaping was added in front of the market, where up to 150 vendors will sell produce outside during warm-season months, said Ann Poe, a City Council member and the market's executive director.

The Eighth Avenue farmers market will close and those vendors will be encouraged to sell in some of those spots, said the city's market coordinator, Teresa White.

"I would rather support it than have two markets, two blocks apart," White said, noting that the Noelridge Farmers Market, operating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, will be the only seasonal city market next season.

NewBo City Market will offer flea markets or other events on days of the large-scale Downtown Farmers Markets, which will continue to operate in summer months.

Poe said about 300 businesses applied for more than 20 anchor spots inside NewBo City Market, which will operate year-round.

Events will be held in open space inside the market hall, next to Kirkwood Community College's new Culinary Kitchen, where cooking classes will be offered.

The market's $5 million construction budget included $1.2 million of in-kind city support for the land value and demolition, along with $500,000 in revenue from the Cedar Rapids local-option sales tax and a $750,000 state Community Attraction and Tourism grant.

Friese said the market could attract up to 300,000 customers annually.

If each Cedar Rapids household allocated $10 per week of its existing food budget to local food sources, Friese said $36 million would be kept in the Linn County economy annually.

"That's serious money," he said. "Now imagine if that was $20, $30, and imagine if it was statewide."

Some vendors have changed since the market's permanent anchors were first announced. For example, the Vernon Inn will not have a spot at the market, but others have stepped in.

Sydney Rieckhoff may just be the next Jeni that Friese envisions.

The Kennedy High School freshman will operate The Chill, selling ice cream that initially will be shipped from Madison, Wis., but someday could be homemade. Just 14, Sydney isn't the youngest entrepreneur at the market.

That honor goes to her brother, 10-year-old Carter Rieckhoff, who will operate CR Popcorn Shop.

"It's going to be a family affair," said their mother, Robyn Rieckhoff, who will sell fresh vegetables next to the children's booths for Morgan Creek Fresh Produce along with her husband, Bill Rieckhoff, 45, and her father, farmer Bob Vanous.

Rieckhoff, 41, plans to keep her job as executive director of the Freedom Festival.

Nick Wallace, 35, of Wallace Farms, which will use the market as a drop-off site for customers, said selling his free-range turkeys, organic chickens, grass-fed beef and other meat products directly to customers is the Keystone farm's main business model.

Adding in other "layers" of intermediaries adds to the cost, Wallace said.

Vendor Anne Armitage, 42, of Bark & Bloom, said she looks forward to having a permanent space to sell her plants, willow branches, cut flowers and more.

The Chelsea woman said she will still have a booth at the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids, but notes the time and effort spent packing and unpacking her truck for outdoor markets.

"I expend a lot of energy doing that and I would rather spend that time talking to (customers,)" she said.

At 29, Christopher Oetker of Christopher Ryan Confections already is a seasoned baker, having operated Cakes by Christopher out of his Cedar Rapids homes for eight years.

Oetker ticks off a tantalizing list of croissants, French macaroons and other pastries his permanent spot will offer at the NewBo City Market.

He and other vendors plan to buy products from one-another, he said, citing eggs and honey he will purchase from another vendor.

"I'm going to get as much as I can locally," Oetker said. "That's what the market is all about."

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