Locals considering ‘city market’

FAIRMONT – It’s a question many smaller towns are facing: What will help bring in more people and give them something to enjoy?

One possibility being examined is a city market that could operate as a Farmers Market, along with year-round options for dining, shopping and entertainment.

For those who think it can’t be done, there is a success story in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Mari Graville Phelan, a former Fairmont resident, has had a hand in the Newbo City Market.

“This market consists of a building that has two different types of vendors,” Graville Phelan explained. “There are the anchor businesses that lease spots or stalls for a year or so. Then there are the open spaces, where people can host meetings or showers. On the market days, the area is rented daily to the smaller vendors. They sell the things they have such as photography, knitting or refurbished furniture. The whole philosophy behind it is that it’s producer-oriented, in that they make what they are selling.”

Graville Phelan added that from May through October, there is an outdoor market for produce along with different types of entertainment acts.

“We’ve had a guy who makes those gigantic bubbles,” Graville Phelan said. “We had someone show up who was a renowned juggler. Once you create the space, people will come and use it.”

After Cedar Rapids was hit hard by flooding, it needed something to help revitalize the community.

“The leaders in Cedar Rapids surveyed people, and one of the things that came out of it was that there was no place to just stroll, to walk around and enjoy your surroundings with the family,” Graville Phelan said.

Being a Fairmont native, she sees how a scaled-down version could play out in Fairmont.

“It could be incorporated with ideas that are already out there,” she said. “The lakes are fabulous; there could be a tour boat like back in the Interlaken days. I know there are people in Fairmont who have been there most of their lives, but have never been out on the lake because they don’t have a boat or don’t know anyone who has a boat.”

Some Fairmont-area residents hope to learn more about the possibility.

“Everybody wants this, but the question is how do you make it work economically,” said Mike Riley, a former chairman of the Downtown Association. “A lot will depend on property and what’s available.”

In an attempt to learn more, a trip to the Newbo City Market in Cedar Rapids for area leaders and others interested is scheduled for Oct. 19.

“The Downtown Association wants to start and would love to get a stir going,” said Ellen Borkenhagen, who is helping organize the trip. “I think to go there and see would help people understand.”

Those interested should contact Borkenhagen at Profinium by Monday at (507) 235-7577. Cost is $30.