Downtown Fresno Public Market in Planning Stages

Jan 07, 2013 No Comments by

FRESNO – Two vacant department stores on the Fulton Mall, the JCPenney Building and the Gottschalks Building, are being considered for a downtown Fresno public market, which would offer local agricultural produce, meats, cheese, bread, wine, jams and ready-made food like beerocks and empanadas.

The public market would be open year-round, and would primarily feature local food.  Other public markets are already open across the United States and beyond, and City of Fresno Downtown & Community Revitalization Department Director Craig Scharton said most public markets he has seen try to represent the region they are located in.

City of Fresno Downtown & Community Revitalization Department Director Craig Scharton

“We would want a market that represented our ag history, our ethnic diversity, the diversity of our crops,” Scharton said.

The Fresno Food Expo, a yearly gathering of food buyers from around the world coming to Fresno to experience its fine foods and do business with local food companies, is helping launch the public market by helping get food producers working together and networking, and also getting them more exposure in the community.  An advisory board made up of some of these food industry leaders is currently being put into place, and this Wednesday, Jan. 9 public market expert Ted Spitzer of Market Ventures, Inc. will go over the steps necessary to create the market.

Those interested in attending the meeting, which will be held at the CA Raisin Marketing Board Room at 2445 Capitol St. in Civic Center Square in downtown Fresno from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., are asked to RSVP with Craig Scharton at craig.scharton@fresno.gov.  A Fresno public market Facebook page is also set.  Food producers, farmers and restaurateurs also wanting to become involved in this market are also asked to e-mail Scharton.

Kate Borders, president and CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership

Kate Borders, president and CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, has seen firsthand the economic benefits a public market can have on a city’s downtown.  Years ago when she was with the East Town Association in Milwaukee, the creation of a market resulted in the popping up of nearby restaurants, and existing businesses in the area that faced possible closure became prosperous.  Its public market became a popular lunchtime venue, and attracted other events and increased foot traffic in its downtown.

Borders said with the area’s rich agricultural communities, Fresno’s public market could be even more effective than Milwaukee’s, which focused on beer, cheese and wine.

“Here there’s so much more local opportunity that I think it could be even bigger, and I definitely think it could help grow the area around it,” Borders said.

Scharton said because of the steps needed to open the market, including the creation of a business plan, it could take two to three years before it opens.

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About the author

James Olinger is a native of the San Joaquin Valley. He graduated from West Hills College in Coalinga, California in 2000 with an associate's degree in liberal arts. He joined Business Street in 2004 as a staff writer, and became the associate editor in 2007. He maintains that position today, writing for Business Street Online in a variety of topics.
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