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Present Bay County Market on Columbus between Adams and Jefferson draws good crowds during the summer on weekends.

Downtown Market Idea Gaining Speed, Looking For a Champion

Hickner, MSU Extension, Shirley Roberts, Brian Elder All Pushing Plan

April 15, 2007       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Momentum is growing among community leaders for an expanded public marketplace in downtown Bay City modeled after Eastern Market in Detroit.

One scenario, pushed by Shirley Roberts of the Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, would use the Uptown at River's Edge site. She wrote to County Executive Tom Hickner and others:

"I've been a long-time advocate of some kind of year-round public market and support the idea of developing such a facility on the Uptown site (aka the Foundry Marketplace proposal)."

Hickner floated the idea last week in e-mails to dozens of city, county, state and business community leaders:

"Some of you may recall that Bay City was once the principal location for mid and northern Michigan's wholesale food distribution. While the nature of the grocery business has changed dramatically with the advent of Meijer's, Kroger and Wal-Mart, I have to believe there still exists a niche market worth exploring.

He noted that Eastern Market in Detroit attracts about 45,000 buyers on Saturdays and is going to a three-day-a-week format and remodeling some of the "sheds" used for sales.

The budget-strapped city of Detroit recently turned over Eastern Market to the nonprofit Eastern Market Corp. The facility is on a 43-acre site and includes office space, vendor sheds, parking lots and public restrooms.

The present Bay County market operates Tuesdays and Thursdays for produce and Saturday and Sunday for flea markets. Grower offerings are limited, however.

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Hickner is seeking a chair for a work group to explore the idea, but County Commissioner Brian Elder says the Bay County office of Michigan State University Extension Service is already working "on a new concept for a downtown farmers' market."

Elder says he is becoming involved with the planning: "There is a good work group up and running. I am just getting in the loop, and it does look very exciting."

City officials have not commented on the idea, but former city development chief Al McFadyen, now in the Lansing area as Delphi Township DDA executive, comments:

"I really would encourage you and your various partners to pursue re-establishment of a community market/farmer's market in Bay City. I think it's a natural complement to everything else going on downtown."

McFadyen continued: "In Holt, the DDA is about to take the leadership role in creating a farmer's market. We do have some serious feasibility concerns, however. Principal among these is the number of available growers."

McFadyen says markets currently operate in Okemos, Lansing, Williamston and Mason and the Ann Arbor market is expanding. "One of their challenges is sorting out the growers from the crafters; the flea market set is beyond the pale!" he added, commenting: "The whole farmer's market movement is really taking off right now. There are a lot of theories as to why. I think it's a natural for downtown Bay City provided you can get solid vendors."

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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