About this Site
What is a Public Market?
Markets and Economic Development
Developing a Market
Who is Aaron Zaretsky
The graphic that follows was created by the owner of this website for the Ford Foundation. It highlights the interactive synergy and benefits that are vital to the success of Public Markets.
Public Markets provide many community benefits including:
Benefit #1) New Jobs.
Public Markets are labor intensive. They have been shown to be one of the most effective projects ever, at turning one time capital support into permanent, decent-paying jobs. Most Public Markets create hundreds of new jobs. Many Public Market employees go on to become future Market business owners. Public Market employees tend to be paid much higher wages and have greater longevity in their jobs than typical retail employees.
Benefit #2) New Entrepreneurial Opportunities.
Public Markets typically create scores of entrepreneurial opportunities. Many of these will be opportunities for vendors and families that are often shut out of the mainstream economy – particularly women and minorities.
Benefit #3) New Tax Revenues to Local Government.
Newly generated tax revenues from Public Markets are often measured in millions of dollars annually.
Benefit #4) Increasing Growth and Consumption of Local Agricultural Enterprises and Products.
Public Markets encourage rural development by providing a retail outlet for cottage industries, crafts and small farmers. They bring healthful, fresh foods to communities that are often “food deserts”.
The recent national emphasis on “buy local” and “buy fresh”, combined with the nation’s current economic crisis, creates an opportunity to significantly expand marketing opportunities for locally grown products.
Benefit #5) Public Markets Showcase and Celebrate what is Unique and Best about a Community while Encouraging Local Control and Decision-making.
Public Markets generate a sense of community ownership, pride and participation, by creating a “common ground” where different ages, classes, genders races, and ethnicity, come together in a fun, secure, and vital environment.
Ethnic foods and festivals, varied music, a cornucopia of fresh food products, and a colorful, lively environment, cause citizens to mix-it-up in a way that is fun, while encouraging them to loosen up their purse strings. In doing so, they help revitalize local economies.
Benefit #6) Making Fresh, Wholesome, Affordable Foods Available to Citizens.
Public Markets provide fresh, affordable, healthful foods, often including an array of organic foods, to local citizens. Public Markets intentionally appeal to customers of diverse economic circumstances.
Benefit #7) Adding Value to Real Estate Surrounding the Public Market.
Public Markets have a proven history of significantly increasing the value of nearby real estate and making it more attractive for privately financed additional retail and housing development.
During the 15 years the owner of this website was a Director at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, he witnessed the transformation of America’s original “skid road” – with its accompanying abandoned housing, boarded up retail, bawdy houses, and SRO hotels, into one of the most successful, diverse, and vital communities in America.
Condo units adjacent to Pike Place Market are currently priced between $5 million to $10 million for relatively small units. This was not done by displacing traditional residents. There is actually more senior low income housing units available today than when the Market renovation started in the mid-seventies. Market rate and expensive housing opportunities were added but the stable, low income population was maintained.
This transformation was accomplished by attracting about 14,500,000 customer visits a year and by providing a great shopping experience that was colorful, exciting, fun, and based on real products that people needed daily.
Public Markets create a week in and week out adventure that customers look forward to rather than the dreary trips to the mall or supermarket – which many citizens dread.
Benefit #8) Creating a “Clean and Green” Project Requiring a Relatively Small Investment in Surrounding Infrastructure and Utilities.
All too often, economic development projects that promise hundreds of new jobs are located in non-urban areas and require that public entities run electricity, roads, water and sewer, etc., to the new site. Often, “job creators” demand tax abatements for 30 years and other economic incentives.
Public Markets are typically located in existing urbanized areas. They plug into existing utilities. Markets often preserve considerable green outdoor space for public use, and encourage energy efficiency and recycling. Some new Public Markets are LEED certified.
Benefit #9) Generating Significant New Tourist Traffic.
When properly designed, Public Markets are geared toward serving local needs and showcasing local products. This attracts tourists in great numbers and often extends the stay of existing tourists. Tourists are interested in experiencing the authentic local flavor of a particular location – not a Disneyfied version of local character.
Pubic Markets are successful because they are genuine. Typically, they create a new attraction for diverse categories of visitors.
Characteristically, Public Markets are the largest tourist attraction in the communities where they are located.
Benefit #10) Public Markets keep Profits Recirculating within the Local Community.
All too often, new economic development projects send their profits out of state while creating low-paying jobs. Historically, because all businesses are local and owner operated, Public Markets keep profits flowing locally in the community where they are earned.
Benefit #11) Public Markets Increase a Sense of Community Ownership, Citizen Participation and Pride in what it means to Reside in a Particular Locale.
Citizens love Public Markets. The inhabitants of the communities where Public Markets are located have a great sense of pride in “their” Market. This fosters hope. By building local trust, Markets create a “yes we can” attitude that paves the way for future civic endeavors.
Benefit #12) Public Markets Create a “Critical Mass” and a New Entertainment Venue that Helps Incubate New Successful Businesses.
Public Markets create flavorful unique businesses. This is a great environment for incubating new businesses where owners do not have much experience but are willing to work hard and showcase their personalities as well as their products.
When the owner of this website was a Director at Pike Place Public Market, he noticed that new, less experienced businesses used to mosey over to a new coffeehouse owned by Zev Siegel and his wife, so that they could learn the many secrets to creating a successful new business from a more seasoned entrepreneur .
Did I mention that the coffeehouse that Zev originated was called “Starbucks”… the rest is history!
Many nationally famous and successful businesses began in a Public Market as start-up mom and pop ventures and went on to become national franchises worth many millions of dollars. In addition to Starbucks, examples include Sur La Table, Wax Orchards, and Cascadian Farm Products.
People are often surprised at how much money a Public Market merchant can make. One of the 4 fish mongers at Pike Place Market, had a 400 square foot retail business that grossed $6,000,000 per year – in 1991! That’s $15,000 per square foot of space in gross sales per year – probably the highest grossing retail business in the world when measured in that manner.
Public Markets serve as a business incubator for many start-up businesses that will receive training, micro lending and marketing assistance to help them to be successful. They will also learn from nearby, more experienced vendors.
Public Markets create an opportunity for cottage industries to become successful by moving businesses out of people’s homes into the marketplace where they will meet health codes and be exposed to many new customers.
Benefit #13) Public Markets Serve as an Access Point for Addressing Critical Public Health and Education Issues.
Public Markets make fresh, healthful foods available. They educate customers about the importance of consuming fresh products. In doing so, they directly address critical issues of child and adult obesity – serious public health problems. Consumption of processed foods has been shown to be directly correlated with obesity, high blood pressure due to excess, fat, sodium, etc.
Public Markets, because they concentrate residents in a friendly, non-threatening public place, are often used by community health professionals for health education, nutritional information, and screenings for diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, aids prevention education, etc. They provide flu shots, publicize health emergencies, and so forth.
Most Public Markets are regularly visited by school children who are often shocked to learn where their food really comes from. Through “Meeting the Producer”, students develop a healthy respect for their community and the people who produce the products that they consume.
Since businesses are owner operated, vendors are proud to share their deep knowledge about the products they are selling – unlike in a mall or supermarket, where low paid salespeople often know little or nothing about the products that they are trying to vend.
Rather than having the experience of a checkout worker in a supermarket, picking up a cucumber and asking “what’s this”, the vendor is more likely to wax eloquently about the variety of cucumbers available, their origin, and their nutritional characteristics. They will happily share their knowledge of how cucumbers are grown, what the different varieties taste like, how to prepare specialty salads, etc.
Because “sampling” is encouraged in Public Markets, customers have the opportunity to know what they are buying long before they part with their money.
These are all benefits that may come with the creation of a properly planned Public Market. Not all of these benefits may be possible or of equal value to a community. Part of the challenge and the “art” of developing or redeveloping a Public Market is to understand the relative possibility, priority, and importance of these and other goals.
One of the first steps in developing a new Public Market is to establish a clear Mission and Goals.This will allow the developer of a Market to hone in on what’s most important and what’s possible.