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Remaking the Market: West Side Market vendors share renovations, concerns, hopes for the

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The market is nearing the end of its current step in the 10-month plan to transition to a non-profit.

CLEVELAND — Tuesday evening, the West Side Market advisory board and consultant Ted Spitzer, leading the 10-month master plan to transition the Market to non-profit ownership, finalized the mission, vision, and values for Cleveland Public Market Corporation. That Corporation will make up the go-tos to run the non-profit when that is finalized.

The official vision statement is this:

Cleveland Public Market Corporation strives to make West Side Market the nation’s premiere public market by meeting the evolving needs of merchants, customers, and the community. CPMC preserves the city’s public market tradition while making the local food system more accessible, equitable, and diverse.

To know where the West Side Market is headed, you have to know about it’s past. In our series “Remaking the Market”, we talked to owners of two of the oldest vendor stands at the Market on where things stand now, and where they see the market going.

“Vera’s Bakery originated almost 80 years ago. It was owned by a lady who did mostly Hungarian and Eastern European baking and then someone in her family had taken over,” explains Vera’s Bakery owner Beth Bowman.

“My mom started the stand in 1971. She loved this building, she loved the atmosphere. She loved to wait on people. I was the lucky one just to take over in her footsteps,” explains Irene Dever Dairy owner Diane Dever, Irene’s daughter.

Bowman is not only in charge at Vera’s, she is also on the Market advisory board, leading the 10-month master plan to transition the Market to non-profit ownership. She, Don Whitaker of D.W. Whitaker meats, Tom Boutros of Boutros Brothers produce, and Amanda Chucray of J&J Chucraj meats were chosen by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, city officials, and Market consultant Ted Spitzer- each with a unique perspective on the market.

“It feels good [to be a vendor at the Market now] because a lot of things that are being neglected for a while is getting attention,” Bowman explains.

That includes new renovations. Many vendors foors are now raised and heated, and sink upgrades have been done in some stands. The Market’s spokesperson, Jessica Trivisonno, says stand renovations are about 1/3 of the way complete, with more to come this year and in 2023.

“We got a new sink, with a great drain so we’re able to clear that out, and another hand sink. Then behind it where they built out from the wall, some pipes for some heating and air conditioning that we’ll be able to have in our own separate stands,” Bowman explains as she shows us around her stand.

For vendors not on the advisory board, like Diane Dever, there are concerns about the chronology of the improvements.

“You know, the sinks and the floors I think could have waited. They keep telling us the elevators are coming, we’re sort of at a shortage of elevators, you know,” she worries.

We did ask about that, and Trivisonno explains the replacement of the elevators is fully funded as of now, but they are working on a timeline to replace each one, with more to come in 2023.

Though Diane is guarded of bringing in things like more prepared foods and alcohol to update the space, she and Bowman agree that all pains should be taken to preserve the original Market spirit.

“I hope that everybody is healthy, first of all, and happy, and the customers realize we’re here to serve them, and consistently,” Bowman says. “It would be nice if not just only at the holidays, but year round that vendors and customers alike would take pride in the West Side Market and treat it as such.”

“I don’t want it to be a loft, I don’t want to it be a brewery. I want it to have the memories that I had,” Dever says. “To come in and to know that you could come to Irene’s and see Joanne and Diane, or that type. We see the kids that used to be little, and now they’re bringing their kids. That’s what it’s about, that’s what this city is about.”

The advisory board also laid out the following values in Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Diversity
  • Opportunity
  • Authenticity
  • Food access and education
  • Sustainability
  • Community engagement
  • Community building
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Professionalism

The board will meet again in coming weeks, where they are expected to name leaders to the top positions in the Cleveland Public Market Corporation.



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