Our Views: Janesville's winter market could be precursor to year-round venue

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Monday, November 25, 2013

When planning your Christmas shopping to-do list, mark Dec. 7 on your calendar. That Saturday, the Janesville Farmers Market will offer an indoor winter market.

The event will be at Olde Towne Mall, 20 S. Main St., just a block south of where customers and vendors gather weekly for the outdoor market from May through October. It will be from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., matching the outdoor market hours.

A second indoor market at Olde Towne will be Feb. 1.

While Janesville's downtown farmers market attracts between 35 and 50 vendors offering Wisconsin products, market manager Stephanie Aegerter last week had already 14 lined up for the first indoor event with room for more. Instead of mostly food and farm vendors, expect more art and crafts.

Aergerter has high hopes for the indoor market. She notes that the market had one indoor event last year in the Community Room at Basics just off Milton Avenue. It went over so well that it lacked space for vendors and customers.

“We would love to eventually have a year-round market like they do in Madison or even the once-a-month indoor market in Evansville,” she told reporter Shelly Birkelo in Friday's Gazette.

The city of Janesville is using a $200,000 federal grant to study its downtown riverfront, and a year-round market could be a boon to redevelopment efforts. An indoor market isn't a new idea. Vandewalle & Associates suggested it in a broader 2007 study of downtown Janesville. The consultant urged expanding on the success of the farmers market with a year-round indoor market that incubates food service start-up vendors and restaurants and offers customers taste samples.

Some cities offer indoor markets. At places such as Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Calif., and the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, British Columbia, customers buy items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, candy, nuts and baked goods. They dine on offerings such as hot and cold sandwiches, ice cream, tacos and pizza slices.

If these two indoor market events in Janesville go over well, they could encourage an investor to refurbish a downtown building for a year-round market. Sure, it would need much remodeling to meet code if food was prepared on site. And, true, Janesville doesn't attract steady flows of tourists like Napa and Vancouver do.

On a smaller scale, however, an indoor market might succeed and boost the flow of people who patronize all downtown businesses.

It's good to start small with this winter's two indoor market days at Olde Towne Mall. It doesn't hurt, however, to dream big.

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