Last December, Vicie Williams made almost $5,000 in a week selling her local brand of barbecue sauce to people in downtown Minneapolis. This summer she expects to make far more. “We even sold to Mayor Hodges,” Williams said. “It’s been an awesome experience.”
Williams is one of about 20 vendors expected to participate in this year’s West Broadway Farmers Market, which opened on June 17 at its new location at the intersection of West Broadway and Aldrich Avenue in north Minneapolis. At roughly 10,000 square feet, the new location is more than twice the size of the old site at Broadway and Dupont Avenue North.
Organizers said the new location will provide higher visibility for their vendors and help to meet growing demand at their market, which is scheduled to run every Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 7.
“The market is growing,” said market manager DeVon Nolen of the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. “Last year we had about 12,000 customers come through, up from 9,000 the previous year.”
The West Broadway market has been slowly growing since it first opened in 2011, Nolen said. And over those years, she said, it’s helped spur economic growth in the neighborhood by creating a popular space for local small businesses and entrepreneurs to sell their wares.
Regina Carter helps run McKinley Community CSA, a north Minneapolis urban farm that started selling fruits and vegetables like greens, tomatoes and peas at the West Broadway market last year. They made $3,000 that year, Carter said, and she’s expecting to make even more this year. “I’m very excited,” she said.
Williams has been running her sauces and salad dressing business, Sister Chris’s Fruit Flavored Products, out of north Minneapolis since 2008, she said, but her sales from last year’s farmers market and winter boutiques allowed her to upgrade to nicer facilities last month. Her sales have also been steady enough to hire 10 employees, she said, and if things keep going well, she hopes to move her operations to an even larger facility soon.
Appetite for Change also boasts of its success at the market. The community advocacy nonprofit has helmed a local produce table at the West Broadway market for the last three years.
Appetite for Change Director of Operations Daryl Lindsey said the best part of the West Broadway market is how ultra-local everything is. “We have local growers who are able to grow produce, sell that produce, and the community is consuming that produce,” he said.
Currently, their table sells fresh fruits and vegetables from 11 different local growers, Lindsey said, but they’ve needed to increase the number of growing sites from 13 to 16 to meet increasing demand. Two years ago, each local grower at their table made about $1,300 at the market. Last year, they each walked away with $4,500.
Nolen said their market is a great example for how to properly spur economic growth on the north side, where many live at or below the poverty line. More than 70 percent of venders at the market are from north Minneapolis, and they bring money into the neighborhood rather than moving it out, she said.
If the market continues to blossom, Nolen said, they plan to turn the seasonal market into a year-round one, so they can continue to bolster residents and give them opportunities to build and grow their businesses. “There’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit in north Minneapolis,” she said. “We want to do whatever we can to continue creating pathways for those kinds of opportunities.”
Added community benefits
The West Broadway Farmers Market isn’t just spurring economic growth in north Minneapolis, Nolen said, it’s also addressing a lack of access to healthy foods in the area and even reducing crime.
An analysis of Minneapolis Police Department data between 2012 and 2015 shows a drop in crime during the days when the market is operating compared to days it’s not. Nolen said that’s because the market provides community members more to do and more to look forward to, both economically and socially. It also creates a healthier relationship between the community and police, she said, who often come to the market to buy produce themselves.
Williams of Sister Chris’s agreed, and said she thinks the crime in her neighborhood is a symptom of a lack of opportunities, especially for those with criminal records, like herself, who often can’t find jobs after serving time.
That’s why she started Sister Chris’s in the first place, she said, because she couldn’t find work after serving two years in prison for check forgery. She said starting her own business really turned her life around and she hopes others who see her at the farmers market will feel inspired to do the same. “I used to be part of the problem,” she said. “Now … I want to become part of the solution.”