When I was in downtown Kent this weekend I noticed a small table set up outside The Loft that appeared to be selling small jewelry items, much like the kind you’d find at Heritage Fest. There were actually people at the table looking like they were going to make a purchase (which is always a good thing) and that sight prompted me to think about the success of outdoor air markets that sell everything from food to hand made jewelry and everything in-between. Hands-down my personal favorite outdoor market was on the eastern side of Washington DC, coincidently called the Eastern Market which has been operating since the turn of the century. Of course, Charleston SC and New Orleans have longer seasons and great outdoor venues, but for me they feel more commercial, than authentic (they sell lots of $5 sunglasses). Maybe that’s something we need to look at expanding here in Kent since it is a really good fit with our home-grown authentic flair.
From what I’ve seen, open air markets are in the same family of the retail town centers that try to distinguish themselves from the rarified stale mall air. And as much as I like the town/living centers, I think the open air markets take the concept even further. They feel more organic than the town centers which are great alternatives to malls but can still feel a bit contrived sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the living retail centers, but I hope there’s room for more authentic, unchoreographed, bazaar-types of markets in our future. That to me, is really a big part of Kent’s niche — we’re that uncontrolled, a bit chaotic, unexpectedly surprising alternative to the Hudson’s of the world.
Likewise, I’m also not really looking to do the whole “flea” market thing either. There’s plenty of those (think Hartville) and I’m glad they’re nearby but that’s not Kent. Kent has more of an artisan edge.
Here’s a few places, including Cinncinnati Ohio, that have developed their open air markets into an important part of their economic niche.
Even small towns, like Ithaca NY, home to Cornell and Ithaca colleges, have developed great eclectic markets.
Eugene Oregon Market
Here’s some great photo’s of Eugene Oregon’s market experience – Click Here
Ohio’s Oldest Outdoor Market
Watch a video clip about Findley Market in Cinncinnati. (scroll down towards bottom of page to find the video link)
Findlay Market is Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market and one of Cincinnati’s most cherished institutions. The Market is located just blocks from downtown in Over-the-Rhine, a dense historic neighborhood rich in 19th century architecture. Open Wednesday through Sunday, Findlay Market is home year-around to about two dozen indoor merchants selling meat, fish, poultry, produce, flowers, cheese, deli, and ethnic foods. On Saturdays and Sundays from April to November the Market also hosts a thriving farmers market, dozens of outdoor vendors, numerous street performers, and lots of special events.
Findlay Market is a gathering place for people from all over the city. It routinely attracts perhaps the most socially, economically, racially, and ethnically diverse crowds found anywhere in Cincinnati. They come for the sights and sounds and smells of an old-fashioned public market, for the great variety of fabulous fresh foods, for bargains, for people watching, and for a quintessentially urban shopping experience
Washington DC Eastern Market
Eastern Market is one of Washington’s most important cultural resources. It is one of the few remaining vestiges of Washington’s 19th and early 20th century public market system, and the ONLY operating historic fresh food market left in the city. Located in the heart of the Capitol Hill Historic District, Eastern Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated local landmark. It is housed in a handsome brick building built in two stages and designed by two notable Washington architects.
The South Hall, which still functions as a public market, was designed in the Victorian style by Adolf Cluss and constructed in 1873 as part of the post Civil War program of civic improvements. The T-shaped Center Connector and the North Hall were designed in the classical revival style by Snowden Ashford and built in 1907. The two-story Center Connector was built to house a separate fish market with a “tea room” and rest rooms above it. The tea room is now a pottery studio and the food operation has moved to the first floor. On the front of the Center Connector was an arched opening or “loggia” designed as an outdoor stall. The stall is now used as the kitchen for the Market’s restaurant. The North Hall, now called the Market 5 Gallery, serves the Capitol Hill community and the city at large as an arts and community center.
Both halls need restoration work, but the building is in a remarkable state of preservation in that it is so little altered from the time of its construction. At Eastern Market one can observe how public markets worked in the 19th and early 20th century when such markets were an essential part of social and commercial life.
Eastern Market is living history. For more than 100 years the market-day scene has been reenacted at Eastern Market every Saturday. Farmers from Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia bring fresh produce, baked goods, and flowers to the Market’s farmer’s line. Among these farmers are families that have been coming to the market since it was built.