Members of the Madison Local Food Committee got a taste Wednesday night of what prospective vendors would like to see and do in a public market if one were located in Madison. Many respondents to the city's survey expressed high interest in the venture.
The committee, which is charged with identifying the best strategy for creating a public market, released the survey in early December, where it gathered 166 responses over one month from all over Dane County and across Wisconsin.
On a scale of one to five -- with five being the highest -- 65% of respondents indicated they had a level five interest in the market, with 13.9 at level four and 11.7 at level three.
Over 84% said the market would provide an expansion of an existing business, while over 96% said they have prior experience running a business.
"Vendors are interested, that was something we didn't have proof of before," says Peggy Yessa of the city's Office of Business Resources, who helped prepare the survey results.
Mayor Paul Soglin has long supported the idea of the public market being somewhere other than downtown -- specifically, one of the city's poorer neighborhoods. He said in his state of the city address that a public market could help diversify Madison's economy and improve troubled communities.
Survey respondents had four locations to express interest in. Two choices garnered interest from more than half of the vendors: "Westside (such as University Avenue)" and "Eastside (such as East Washington Avenue)."
The other locations -- "Southside (such as Park Street or Fish Hatchery Road)" and "Northside (such as Packers Avenue or Sherman Avenue)" -- scored about 25%.
What caught several members of the committee slightly off guard was the high interest in selling crafts and art at the market, which gained more interest than any other specific items.
Crafts and art came in with 34.8%, with fruit and vegetables (31.7) coming in second. Respondents also indicated various levels of interest in bakery, flowers, meat, fish, poultry, honey, jams sauces and seasonings, among others. Interest in selling "other" items came in at 31%.
The market's balance between food and crafts -- as well as permanent tenants and temporary ones selling seasonal goods -- is something the committee will address in the future.
"I think we do have to hit the crafts issue head-on," says committee member Barry Orton. "Certainly there are going to be some diehards, particularly among the produce and other veteran farmer's market vendors, who are going to be adamantly against it, but I my guess is a public market won't work if we don't have something beyond food."
Other matters vendors expressed interest in were limiting the sale of items to those grown or made by the seller; the market being open six to seven days per week and between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.; allowing cooking and educational opportunities; and providing live entertainment.
At the committee's next meeting on March 13, it plans to host a presentation from Dan Carmody, the president of the Detroit Eastern Market, which has impressed several city officials.
By April or May, the committee expects to have hired a consultant firm to help complete a business plan considering vendor and consumer needs, capital costs and an operating plan, according to committee chair Anne Reynolds.