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City Market: The renaissance


Newly appointed Executive Director, Stevi Stoesz, heads up the City Market. - BRANDON KNAPP
  • Brandon Knapp
  • Newly appointed Executive Director, Stevi Stoesz, heads up the City Market.

The historic Indianapolis City Market is experiencing a renaissance — one that will take you back to a time of greater community, natural food choices and preparation and carefully crafted products both unique and useful.

Newly appointed Executive Director Stevi Stoesz is leading the revitalization efforts. In December, the Indianapolis City Market Corporation board of directors chose Stoesz to return the City Market to a true public market, a place that would attract shoppers, offer affordable retail space for small businesses and encourage the use of the public space.

"We want to return it to a true artisan craft place. A place that will leave a legacy, not only for Indianapolis, but for her people," Stoesz said.

A $3.5 million investment from the City of Indianapolis allowed for the creation of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA, which opened in September 2011 in the east wing. That money also was used to upgrade other amenities at City Market, such as enhancing the aesthetic vibrancy of the market's interior.

Regarding the main building, situated in the center of City Market, Stoesz said the opening of the Tomlinson Tap Room has been a huge success. [See next page.] Tomlinson has 16 kinds of Indiana craft beer on tap. "Craft beer is gaining so much popularity in Indiana right now, but Tomlinson isn't just for people who want to drink beer," Stoesz said. "It's a place where people who work in the area come after work and meet friends."

Want to see the City Market in action? Come to the party on Saturday.

What's old is new again

Public markets are making a comeback, not just in the United States, but Canada and Europe as well. This comeback is what drew Stoesz back to the City Market after being away for seven years. In 2008, Stoesz's former boss, James A. Riley, asked her back to the City Market.

"He called me and said he was invited to come back and work, but he wasn't sure he wanted to," Stoesz said. "He would only do it if he could assemble the right team. So I asked him, 'How bad is it?' and he said, 'It's not pretty.' That's when I said, 'I'm totally in.' This is an opportunity to affect real change. A chance to leave a public legacy for what this is and what this market can be."

Back in the early 1900s, the City Market was a destination. People came to buy food, mingle with friends and enjoy local business. In the 1950s, more than 200 vendors occupied the City Market. It was a vibrant, active community, but in the '60s, things changed. It shifted away from being for all people and became more for downtown employees.

Stoesz says the local food initiative is growing, and people are now more conscious of where their food comes from. "Public markets offer artisan-crafted foods from people who can give you a dialogue about where your food is coming from," she said. "The agricultural component is strong for us right now to conserve the Hoosier heartland. That very local initiative is greener, and you can truly eat off your land in a healthful and socially conscious way."

City Market's future

Fundraising is high on the City Market's priority list this year. Stoesz says it's part of the goal to reduce the market's subsidy from the city. The city owns the not-for-profit organization and leases it to a board of directors. Currently, the City Market receives $375,000 a year from the city, an amount that includes utilities and some infrastructure.

"Our goal is to get off the taxpayers' dole. I think that's what everyone wants: for us to be self-sufficient," Stoesz said.

The City Market leadership team is looking into fundraising ideas to attract more people to the market. She said they are looking at potentially expanding the farmers' market, being more aggressive about obtaining private events and getting more programming.

"We want for people to come out and never really know what to expect," Stoesz said. "You know you'll have fun, see friends ... and maybe a spontaneity of events." She added that the City Market is hoping to attract more local artists. "We're in the business of raising up small businesses and artists."

Currently, the City Market has 30 vendors and 1,200 visitors a day. Stoesz says the City Market is a great opportunity for an appropriate vendor. "We have to make sure our vendors are the right product mix that fit in with our mission as a public market."

Stoesz credits part of the City Market's upswing from social-media efforts and Tomlinson Tap. "The young Urbanite is gravitating to this culture. They are making this a definite part of their daily routines. They are coming here for a crafted crepe or cultured cheeses, those artisan-crafted foods."

The Original Farmers' Market prepares for 15th season

The Original Farmers' Market will begin its 15th season on May 2. Every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., more than 50 producers travel to the heart of Indianapolis to share their locally produced goods such as meats, eggs, cheeses, poultry, honey, syrups, plants, produce, fresh-cut flowers, flax seed and baked goods.

This season's first market will include a special dedication to Your Neighbor's Garden owner Ross Faris, long-time farmers' market vendor and pioneer in the local food movement. Faris died from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident in November 2011. Faris' widow, Sherry Faris, will ring the market bell to officially start the farmers' market. A presentation will follow to honor the many contributions the Faris family and Your Neighbor's Garden made to area farmers' markets.

The Original Farmers Market will be held every Wednesday through Oct. 31.

Currently, the Indiana Winter Farmers Market is continuing on Saturdays in the west wing, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through April 21.


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