firedamage

A fire caused Cleveland’s treasured West Side Market to close for 19 days / Photo: Ohio City Inc.

Depending on how much you love public markets (and we know that many of you love public markets a whole lot) you may have already heard that the West Side Market, the bustling heart of Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood for the past century, was shuttered for more than two weeks recently after a fire. Two stalls were destroyed, and the entire market had to be thoroughly cleaned due to smoke damage. Most vendors had to throw out their stock and, barring the few that sell at multiple locations, were out of business for 19 days—a significant hit to any business, never mind small family-owned enterprises.

We’re happy to report that the market re-opened for business this week and, if you live anywhere near Cleveland, there’s a great opportunity to show your support this Saturday, February 23rd, during a special Cash Mob event planned to welcome the vendors back to the neighborhood.

While organizing the 8th International Public Markets Conference in 2012, we worked very closely with the staff of Ohio City Inc. These passionate Placemakers have worked tirelessly over the past few years to build on the West Side Market’s treasured place within the  Cleveland area to revitalize the surrounding district. Those of you who were in attendance at the conference last September know what a spectacular market this is; indeed, it is one of the last great old public market halls in the US. It’s a benchmark, an example that every city should look to as they try to re-make their neighborhoods into healthy places.

We spoke recently with Amanda Dempsey, Ohio City Inc.’s Market District Director, about the planned Cash Mob and the Market Bonds gift certificate program that the org launched in partnership with locally-based financial institution Charter One. “For every $40 in bonds that they buy, people get $10 more to spend at the market,” Amanda explained. “If everyone redeems their bonds, that will add up to $37,000 spent at the market. And we sold out of the bonds just four days after they were issued! Our hope is that, between the cash mob and the bonds, the vendors experience a boost in sales. The best way to get the businesses that were hurt by the fire back on their feet is to get people back shopping in the market, fast.”

The outpouring of support in response to the fire is a crystal clear example of how important great markets are to their communities. If you live within reasonable traveling distance of Cleveland, we encourage you to welcome the West Side Market vendors back during this weekend’s Cash Mob. If you don’t, you can still show your support for this amazing institution on Twitter with the #CMWSM hashtag.

Cleaning the market, brick by brick / Photo: Ohio City Inc.

Cleaning the market, brick by brick / Photo: Ohio City Inc.